• Kyodo

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West Japan Railway Co. and USJ Co., operator of the Universal Studios Japan theme park, apologized at separate shareholders’ meetings Wednesday over scandals and instances of misconduct.

Referring to JR West losing a compensation suit over a train crash in Shiga Prefecture in 1991 that left 42 people dead, Masayuki Sakata, senior managing director of JR West, said: “There were many regrettable points. We will make our utmost efforts to ensure safety from now on.”

JR West said late last year it would not appeal an Osaka High Court decision that ordered it and local railway firm SKR to pay a total of about 510 million yen in compensation to the families of nine of the 42 who were killed, confirming the plaintiffs’ victory in the case.

The railway also apologized for an accident in Osaka in November in which an ambulance worker was hit and killed by a train and another was injured as they attempted to save a 14-year-old boy who had been struck and injured by an earlier train.

JR West apologized as well for an incident in February in which the driver of a bullet train dozed off for about eight minutes while at the controls of a Hikari super-express that was traveling at nearly 300 km per hour.

Shareholders meanwhile questioned JR West over reports that the Osaka Regional Taxation Bureau had determined that the company failed to declare some 2 billion yen in taxable income.

The meeting, attended by some 1,000 shareholders, lasted about three hours and 15 minutes — the longest ever for JR West.

USJ meanwhile shut the media out from its shareholders’ meeting.

Shareholders said new USJ President Shin Sasaki apologized for several scandals and the Osaka theme park’s poor business performance.

“There was a detailed explanation on specific measures and I’m not worried,” a shareholder said after emerging from the 30-minute meeting.

The scandals at USJ, which opened in March 2001, concerned the selling of food beyond its expiration date, piping industrial water through drinking fountains and the use of excessive amounts of explosives in fireworks spectacles.

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