• Kyodo

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The West Japan Railway Co. conductor arrested Wednesday for allegedly repeatedly removing a fuse from safety equipment on trains has worked for the railway for about 30 years, including 19 years as a conductor.

JR West officials revealed that Hirokazu Fujita, 49, has received four awards from the carrier for being accident-free.

However, he was made to attend a seminar for conductors in May after an announcement he made on a train was criticized by passengers as difficult to understand, officials said.

Describing Fujita’s character, the officials said he is not sociable and had often took his breaks alone.

Early Tuesday after he finished his overnight shift, Osaka Prefectural Police asked Fujita to come in for questioning.

Fujita had voiced no complaints about his work or about JR West during an interview with his boss in April, and said only that he hoped to work as a conductor in the Kyoto area as it is closer to his home, officials said.

His neighbors and coworkers appeared surprised at the news of his arrest.

“I didn’t notice anything strange about him,” said a 40-year-old company employee who lives near Fujita in city of Kyoto. “He looked like an ordinary, kind man.”

A neighborhood high school girl said: “He always greeted me with a smile. He looks very kind.”

JR West employee reactions were mixed.

“We are currently working hard to regain the public’s trust (after the 2005 commuter train crash in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture). I feel very sorry for the victims,” said a JR West male employee in his 30s.

The Amagasaki derailment claimed 107 lives, including the driver.

Another employee also questioned why Fujita said he was fed up with his job.

“Train conductors and drivers are considered the stars within our company, and he has been working as a conductor for such a long time. I don’t know why he felt this way,” the employee said.

Tsuneo Okumura, 62, from Sanda, Hyogo Prefecture, whose oldest daughter died in the Amagasaki crash, expressed disappointment that so many negative aspects of JR West had come to light.

“I have to suspect there may be more scandals (lurking),” Okumura said.

Rush-hour suicide

OSAKA (Kyodo) A 53-year-old man jumped onto railway tracks before being hit by a commuter train Wednesday morning at JR Suita Station in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, police and the railway said.

According to West Japan Railway Co., the man’s 6:10 a.m. suicide on the JR Kyoto Line delayed train runs by more than two hours and affected an estimated 180,000 passengers during morning rush hour.

Police identified the man as a barkeeper in the city. His name was not released.

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