OSAKA – West Japan Railway Co. will ease disciplinary measures for train crews to prevent them from covering up errors, company officials said Friday, in what is the first such attempt in the industry.
In the wake of the deadly 2005 derailment near Osaka, the company, commonly known as JR West, will cease reprimanding crews for their mistakes in the hope that the new system will help it quickly identify accidents and faults, the officials said.
In the aviation sector, Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. have already introduced similar rules.
The move by JR West follows a proposal last year from a safety review panel involving the families of victims of the 2005 train accident in Hyogo Prefecture that killed the driver and 106 passengers and injured more than 560.
Following the accident, it emerged JR West had been punishing drivers for making mistakes that led to delays. The practice was blamed for partly causing the accident as the driver lost focus after overrunning a station shortly before the derailment.
The panel said in its report released in April 2014 that it was common for JR West crews to make false reports or to not report their mistakes at all in order to avoid punishment.
The planned rule changes exclude intentional or malicious violations such as drinking, the officials said.
“I’m sure there are many young crew members who work fearing consequences of any possible mistake,” said a 46-year-old woman from Itami in Hyogo Prefecture who was severely injured in the accident.
“The fact that the company has revised its policy, taking into account the root cause of the accident, will hopefully bring a huge change.”
Meanwhile, 76-year-old Mitsuko Fujisaki from Osaka, whose daughter died in the derailment, said the decision not to punish drivers for their mistakes was reasonable.
“But I doubt the company’s culture will change so easily,” she added.