A transport ministry panel said Thursday that it will issue proposals mainly to ensure trains don’t run at unsafe speeds, after the deadly derailment on West Japan Railway Co.’s Fukuchiyama Line in April.
The proposals are part of an interim report by the Aircraft and Railway Accidents Investigation Commission, which has been probing the train crash in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, that killed 107 people and injured more than 500 others on April 25.
The panel will announce details of the report after submitting it Tuesday to Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Kazuo Kitagawa.
The overspeeding JR West commuter train derailed and crashed into a condominium high rise.
The commission concluded the accident occurred because the driver, who was killed in the crash, entered a curve too fast and proposed the latest version of an automatic train stop system be installed at curves.
Improving monitoring devices on trains, including speedometers, to obtain more accurate data and radio systems to avoid another train hitting a derailed train, are also among the proposals.
Officials of the commission have been analyzing data obtained from the ATS system and from re-enactments of the accident.
According to the data, the seven-car train was running at about 110 kph — well above the 70 kph speed limit for that section of track — as it entered the sharp curve.
The train jumped the tracks, hit a utility pole and smashed into the ground floor parking lot of the building.
The latest ATS system automatically stops or decelerates a train when it exceeds a certain speed limit, while the older version halts it when the sensors indicate it will run a red signal. The tracks at the accident site had the old system.
The transport ministry announced in May that about 2,400 railway sections nationwide need to have the new ATS system installed and asked railways to specify which sections they considered the most at risk.
The ministry plans to ask for about 365 million yen in the fiscal 2006 budget for subsidies for financially weak railways to install the upgraded ATS system.
In the Amagasaki crash, the commission said the train speedometer showed a much slower speed than what the train was actually traveling, which may have caused the driver, who was trying to make up for a delay, to speed up, thinking it would still be safe.
It is this speculation that has led to a proposal for more accurate speedometers, the commission said, adding that train speedometers are generally not very accurate.
As for the radio system, the commission said it was not working properly when the crash occurred. It should have automatically sent a signal to nearby trains to stop.
The final report on the accident is expected in 2006. It will likely include the panel’s analysis of the mental state of the driver, Ryujiro Takami, in an effort to determine what caused him to speed.
The police probe points to Takami, who was killed in the accident, trying to make up for lost time.
The data obtained by the commission show no record of Takami applying the emergency brake. Once he entered the curve, he applied the ordinary brakes, which are only used to decelerate the train.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.