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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 January 11 - 17  > Protect visually-impaired persons from falling from station platforms
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2017 January 11 - 17 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Protect visually-impaired persons from falling from station platforms

January 17, 2017
Akahata editorial (excerpt)

Another tragedy involving a visually-impaired person occurred at a train station. Last week, at East Japan Railway Company’s Warabi Station in Saitama Prefecture, a man with his guide dog fell onto the train tracks and was hit by a train. The urgent need is to take drastic measures to secure passenger safety at train stations.

The Japan Federation of the Blind in 2011 conducted a nationwide survey of people with visual impairment. The survey results showed that two in five respondents had the experience of falling from a station platform and that three in five almost fell onto railway tracks. These results underscore the pressing need to address the danger of station platforms, which is often likened as a bridge without a parapet.

Platform barrier doors are effective in preventing accidental falls. Of all 9,500 train stations in the country, only 660 or so have such doors installed. The Transport Ministry calls on railway companies to install platform safety fences in major stations where more than 100,000 passengers get on or off a day. The ministry says that this goal should be achieved by the end of March 2021. So far, only 30% of such stations have completed the installation. At Warabi Station, where the latest fatal accident occurred, the construction work of platform safety doors is expected to finish by March 2021. The installation of platform doors is progressing very slowly despite the urgency. As the reason for this, railway companies cite installation costs. The national government should not leave the matter to railway service providers. It needs to step up measures to help install platform doors more quickly.

A Transport Ministry panel on station safety at the end of 2016 issued a report which calls for speeding up the introduction of more safety equipment. The report also proposes that at train stations without platform doors, station staff should guide visually-impaired persons even when these persons do not ask for it. It needs to be determined why Warabi Station staff failed to comply with the proposed guidelines. In order to prevent a recurrence, all railway companies need to verify the safety measures implemented at stations in their service areas and take necessary measures to improve safety without delay.
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