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Automated train in Yokohama crash continued moving 1 meter after slamming into buffer

Kyodo

A driverless train that injured 14 people in Yokohama on Saturday after moving in the wrong direction continued moving for 1 meter even after hitting a buffer at a station because of the way the buffer works, the train operator said Monday.

Saturday’s accident occurred at Shin-Sugita station on the Kanazawa Seaside Line. Of the 14 passengers hurt, six sustained serious injuries.

According to the operator, Yokohama Seaside Line Co., the unmanned train traveled for 25 meters in the wrong direction, hit the buffer, which is designed to absorb any impact, and then continued to move for about a meter.

The Japan Transport Safety Board and the operating company are specifically investigating the circumstances of the accident, and believe that the impact was magnified when the moving train hit the buffer.

The operating company said the buffer consists of a hydraulic damper that can move a maximum of 1 meter from its usual position. Because the train’s brake system failed to work at the time of the accident, the hydraulic damper is believed to have absorbed the full shock of the impact.

Following calculations by technical staff, the operator said that when the crash occurred, there is a possibility that the train was moving at a speed faster than 10 kph.

The safety board said its on-site inspection found the coupling apparatus of the car that hit the buffer had buckled due to the force of the impact.

The accident occurred on 8:15 p.m. Saturday. The five-car train was supposed to leave Shin-Sugita Station for Namiki-Chuo Station, but instead traveled in the wrong direction.

It remains unclear when transportation services will be resumed.

On Monday morning shuttle buses were laid on to transport commuters, but many of them found they had to wait in queues at Shin-Sugita Station.

A 37-year-old male worker from Hodogaya Ward in Yokohama who was waiting at the end of the line, said, “I left home early but I might be late for work. It seems faster walking.” He then left the line and headed quickly toward his office.

A 71-year-old female part-time worker said, “Usually I’m already at work by this hour. I hope train services will resume as soon as possible.”