Corporate Efforts Prevented Shinkansen Crash in 2004 Quake: Expert

Society Lifestyle

Tokyo, Nov. 4 (Jiji Press)--An expert has praised East Japan Railway Co. <9020>, or JR East, for preventing a Shinkansen bullet train from crashing during a powerful earthquake 15 years ago although the train derailed.

After the first derailment accident involving a Shinkansen train on commercial operations, some voiced criticism, saying that "the safety myth" of the highly acclaimed Japanese bullet train system collapsed.

But Yotaro Hatamura, 78, honorary professor at the University of Tokyo, rebutted. Before the temblor, JR East voluntarily carried out work to reinforce the rail section in question against earthquakes. No one was killed or injured in the accident thanks to "a combination of the company's honest efforts and good luck," Hatamura, who independently investigated the accident site at the time, told Jiji Press recently.

The 6.8-magnitude earthquake occurred on the afternoon of Oct. 23, 2004, mainly hitting the Chuetsu region of Niigata Prefecture, central Japan. Jolted by the temblor, the Toki No. 325 train on JR East's Joetsu Shinkansen Line, which connects Tokyo Station and Niigata Station in the prefecture, derailed while it was traveling on elevated tracks between Urasa and Nagaoka stations, both in the prefecture, at a speed of about 200 kilometers per hour.

But the train avoided a crash, as the elevated section did not collapse and the rails became stuck between the wheels of the train and parts on its body. All 154 passengers and crew members were safe.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press