In an effort to equip more urban train platforms with automatic sliding gates to prevent people from falling onto the tracks, the transport ministry will request funds in the fiscal 2002 budget to conduct a survey on the matter, ministry officials said Tuesday.

More stations will feature gates like those installed at the Uchisaiwaicho Station on Tokyo’s Toei Mita subway line.

There are two types of platform fences: Those that just have openings without any gates and those that have automatic sliding gates coinciding with the location of a train’s doors, according to ministry officials. The ministry hopes to encourage railways to install the latter, which are believed to be safer.

Several hurdles will need to be overcome before the gates become a common fixture at stations, officials said, citing such problems as the lack of space on some platforms to set up the gates, the possibility of trains being delayed as conductors take more time to confirm that all passengers are on the train, and the flow of people being blocked by the gates.

Because of such problems, entities such as the Railway Technical Research Institute will conduct studies using mock platforms to study the effects of the gates on passenger flow and train operations, according to ministry officials.

The move for greater safety on train platforms follows many instances of visually impaired people falling onto the tracks.

Such people often lose their sense of direction, losing track of the bumpy yellow trail along the platform’s edge after being jostled by other passengers. Many have called on railways and the ministry to set up some form of gate. Elderly people, as well as those who are intoxicated, have also fallen onto the tracks, ministry officials said.

Such sliding-door gates are already in place at stations along Tokyo’s Toei Mita subway line.

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