• Kyodo

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A motorman pleaded guilty Thursday to professional negligence for causing a head-on collision in June last year between two trains in Fukui Prefecture that injured 25 people, including himself.

Makoto Shimokawatoko, 23, entered the guilty plea as his trial opened at the Fukui District Court.

Shimokawatoko was arrested over the June 24 collision between two single-car trains on the Keifuku Electric Railroad Co.’s Echizen Line in Katsuyama.

According to the indictment, Shimokawatoko, the driver of a local train bound for Fukui, ignored a red signal and failed to wait for the arrival of an express train bound for Katsuyama at Hossaka Station before leaving the station.

The local train with eight passengers on board collided with the express train carrying 15 passengers about 500 meters from the station on the single-track line at 6:08 p.m.

Shimokawatoko had been a driver for less than six months before the collision. He told investigators he failed to wait for the express train because he was preoccupied about a manual signal operation he was supposed to do for the first time on another of the company’s lines later that day.

A similar collision occurred Dec. 17, 2000, on the same line in the town of Matsuoka. In that accident, a train driver was killed and 25 people were injured.

The company notified the transport ministry in October that it was closing down its three railway lines in Fukui Prefecture and replacing the train operations with a bus service.

The train business will be transferred to a joint public-private venture to be set up this month.

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