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Service on the JR Chuo Line, one of the key commuter lines in the Tokyo metropolitan area, was disrupted Sunday when an overnight project to switch to new tracks was delayed by eight hours.

According to East Japan Railway Co., operations on the Chuo Line were suspended between Mitaka and Tachikawa in western Tokyo until 1:52 p.m.

A total of 234 train runs, including 24 express trains, were canceled, affecting 180,000 passengers.

Originally, JR East planned to get the line up and running by 6 a.m. after finishing overnight construction to switch to elevated tracks in the Mitaka-Tachikawa section. The company mobilized roughly 2,000 workers for the project.

However, the work, which began at 4 p.m. Saturday, took eight hours longer than expected due to malfunctions in signal and warning systems near Musashikoganei Station.

The malfunctions are believed to have been caused by wiring errors during the overnight work. The main work of switching the tracks was completed according to schedule.

All of the morning’s express runs on the Chuo Line were canceled. Even after operations resumed in the afternoon, some express trains were delayed by up to five hours.

Regular service continued between Tokyo and Mitaka stations and between Takao and Tachikawa stations.

JR East had hired three bus companies to transport passengers Saturday on the section where service was suspended. Because resumption of the train line was delayed, the railroad tried to continue the bus service. However, it was terminated at 9 a.m. when the bus operators ran out of drivers.

JR East asked its passengers to rely on regular bus services or other railway lines to reach their destinations. Even so, many stations on the Chuo Line were crowded with people who did not know the train service was still suspended, and some passengers were seen venting their anger toward station workers.

“I have to go to the office for work even though it’s a holiday, but I will not make it,” a commuter at Musashikoganei Station complained as he found that no trains for central Tokyo were running.

JR East plans to probe the cause of Sunday’s problem by interviewing about 100 workers involved in the overnight work. The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry will also urge JR East to explain why the confusion took place, officials said.

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