Broken power cables knock out swath of JR East services in Tokyo-Yokohama area

Kyodo, Staff Report

Thousands of commuters, many returning from a fireworks display in Yokohama, were stranded on trains or forced to walk along railway tracks on Tuesday night after broken overhead power lines knocked out services across multiple lines.

East Japan Railway Co., which is investigating the cause of the incident, said Wednesday it believed power supply cables somehow short-circuited, and a spark and extreme heat broke a trolley line at around 7:10 p.m.

The trolley line was found broken in two places between Yokohama and Sakuragicho stations.

The Yokosuka and Tokaido lines, which run parallel to Keihin-Tohoku in some places, were also suspended due to fears passengers may manually open the doors to walk out onto the tracks. As trains on other lines pass these line, their operation was also affected.

On a day of sweltering heat, the fireworks meant trains on the Keihin-Tohoku Line were even more packed than usual.

Passengers on stranded cars, many wearing colorful yukata summer kimono for the fireworks display, complained of sickness and ambulances were dispatched to stations, according to the Yokohama Fire Department. The temperature reached 34 degrees in Yokohama and over 35 in Tokyo on Tuesday.

JR East said Wednesday that 150 trains were fully or partly suspended and 159 were delayed by as much as six hours and 20 minutes, affecting some 350,000 passengers. All trains were back to normal by around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, the railway said.

Along with the Keihin-Tohoku and Yokohama lines, which were forced to stop operating, services on eight other train lines in the metropolitan area were delayed, suspended or partially suspended, JR East said.

The accident led to major congestion at Tokyo’s Shinagawa Station, which is used by tens of thousands of commuters to travel to Kanagawa Prefecture using the Keihin-Tohoku, Tokaido and Yokosuka lines. Hundreds of people lined up for taxis, while at least one passenger was seen angrily complaining to station employees.

“It was hot after the air conditioner (in the train) stopped and it was difficult to walk. I’m sad I couldn’t see the fireworks,” Yoshie Matsumoto, a 46-year-old office worker from Yokohama, said after walking for around 15 minutes from a stranded train to Sakuragicho Station.

“There’s such a large number of people. It’s so hot and I’m at a loss about what to do,” 19-year-old college student Haruki Horimoto said at Shinagawa Station.

  • Ron NJ

    A spokesman continued, “luckily for us the fax machines kept running so we were able to distribute news of the incident.”

  • ishyg

    We got home at around 2AM after waiting 2+ hours in Kamata. I had a feeling that we should’ve switched to Keikyu from Shinagawa. Now I’m sitting at work, drained and sleepy. I hope the incident doesn’t repeat itself in the near future.

    • Clayton Forrester

      If you’re like me and you normally use the various JR lines, it’s easy to forget about the Keikyu Line.

      Fortunately for me, last night I remembered and got home OK (from Shinagawa to Kawasaki), though the Keikyu train I rode was EXTREMELY crowded.

      • ishyg

        How fortunate. I was afraid to leave the train because I was thinking the Keikyu lines will be closed at around 12. So yeah. Stupid me.

        At least with the long wait interesting stuff is bound to happen (like drunk salarymen doing indecent sleeping patterns) but unfortunately, I didn’t witness one yesterday, probably because I’m sleeping.

  • I was planning on using the Shonan-Shinjuku Line back up towards Shinjuku to ferry friends visiting from Singapore back to their hotel. Now I see those same complainers hating on the Tokyu Toyoko Line’s thru-routing with Tokyo Metro’s Fukutoshin line are real silent these days… Ha.