• Kyodo

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Three railways have signed a deal with a state research institute to implement a system to halt shinkansen trains more swiftly in the event of a major offshore quake near the Japanese archipelago.

The emergency stop signals of the new system, to be introduced Wednesday on certain sections of the Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen lines operated by East Japan Railway Co., activate 10 to 30 seconds faster than the current system by utilizing seismic data captured by a quake sensor on the Pacific seafloor, the railroads and institute said Monday.

JR East, Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) and West Japan Railway Co. agreed with the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience on data distribution for railway safety to prevent disasters involving bullet trains, following a series of powerful earthquakes since the massive March 2011 quake in the country’s northeast.

The system will be introduced first on sections where earthquake data from the sensor located off the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture will be utilized — the Tohoku Shinkansen Line section between Tokyo and Fukushima Prefecture and the Joetsu Shinkansen Line section between Tokyo and an area around Kumagaya in Saitama Prefecture.

Regarding the Tokaido Shinkansen Line connecting Tokyo and the Osaka area, and the Sanyo Shinkansen Line linking the Osaka area and Fukuoka Prefecture, operated by JR Tokai and JR West, respectively, the system is planned to be introduced around spring 2019.

The three JR companies have already set terrestrial quake sensors along the coast but they are not expected to react fast enough to halt trains in the event of a big offshore quake.

Under the new system, when a sensor on the seafloor detects a quake large enough to affect inland areas, electric power transmitted from substations will be automatically cut off and bullet trains will make emergency stops.

Quake data will be provided from seafloor observatory networks covering the area along the Japan Trench — off the coast of the Tohoku region and the Boso Peninsula — as well as the area along the Nankai Trough — off the coast of the Kii Peninsula and Shikoku.

“If a high-speed shinkansen bullet train derails due to an earthquake, its impact on passengers will be huge. We would like to detect a quake as soon as possible and reduce the risk,” a JR East official said.

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