National

New JR East train does Tokyo's Yamanote Line loop twice on auto with just one touch of a button

JIJI

East Japan Railway Co. took media representatives on a test run early Monday of a Yamanote Line train equipped with an automatic control system.

During the two hours it took to travel twice around the 34.5-km-long line encircling central Tokyo, all the motorman did was push the starting button for departure.

The system was developed to cope with the labor shortage stemming from Japan’s aging population and low birthrate.

The test run was organized to allow staff members to check the acceleration and deceleration as well as the ride comfort of the 11-car, E235 series train.

It was the third such test conducted on the Yamanote Line, according to JR East.

At around 1:50 a.m., after the last regular train had ended its service for the day, the test train using the Automatic Train Operation system left Osaki Station in Shinagawa Ward.

After running the first lap on time, the train made the second lap on the assumption that it was facing a delay and had to make up for lost time by increasing its speed.

The train automatically accelerated, slowed down and stopped at the stations.

It reached a top speed of about 80 kph.

JR East staff members rode in the lead car to monitor the train’s driving situation. The time required to reach each station was announced inside the train.

“We could complete the test just about smoothly,” said Yuichiro Tokunaga, a senior official in JR East’s train car division.

Tokunaga said the railway is hoping to put the autonomous train into practical use soon, as it is expected to lead to more effective use of human resources and enhanced safety of train services.

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