• Kyodo

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West Japan Railway Co. has admitted that for now it will manufacture a new type of commuter train without enhancing its physical strength, despite a review following a fatal derailment a year ago.

JR West has been researching what it calls “survival factors,” which increase the chance of passengers surviving accidents, and had thought to incorporate research results in manufacturing the new vehicle model, the 321 series.

The 321 series is the successor to the 207 series. The accident in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, in April 2005 — in which more than 100 passengers were killed — involved 207 series cars.

“Safety measures to prevent a recurrence of a derailment accident should be given priority,” an official of the western Japan railway operator said Friday. “We will continue research on survival factors but this time, we could not make it ready” for production.

JR West planned to introduce 273 vehicles of the 321 series over two fiscal years from April 2005. Of them, 140 were introduced in the first year without enhancements because the company was unable to incorporate design changes in time, according to the officials.

The railway operator was considering enhancements for the 133 vehicles for introduction in the second year. The new model is basically the same make, using lightweight stainless steel and basic features such as a top speed of 120 kph.

In the Amagasaki derailment, the second car of the train bent after plowing sideways into a condominium. Of the 107 people killed, at least 45 were in the second car.