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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 December 20 - 2018 January 9  > Railway operator caused serious incident after cutting down bullet train inspection staff
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2017 December 20 - 2018 January 9 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Railway operator caused serious incident after cutting down bullet train inspection staff

December 27, 2017
Akahata revealed on December 27 that West Japan Railway Company (JR West) eight months ago slashed the number of staff assigned to regular inspections of its bullet trains and lengthened intervals between regular inspections. This may have been the cause of an accident in which a cracked component was discovered on a Shinkansen bullet train.

On December 11, the operation of the Nozomi No.34 Shinkansen bullet train was cancelled on route to Tokyo from Hakata after arriving at Nagoya Station as abnormalities were detected on a train car. At the station, an emergency inspection was carried out and a crack was discovered on the undercarriage of Car No.13. The train might have derailed if the train had continued on its route to Tokyo. The Transport Ministry designated this case as “extremely serious”.

The train car in question just received its regular inspection on November 30. According to Akahata, JR West in April carried out job cuts at the department which regularly checks the conditions of Shinkansen vehicle car bodies and components, including undercarriages, decreasing the number of inspection staff by 20 to 448.

In addition, regarding the N700 series Shinkansen, the same type of bullet train found with a cracked component, the railway company changed the inspection interval from “every 30 days or 30,000 kilometers” to “every 45 days or 60,000 kilometers”.

JR West, operator of the Sanyo Shinkansen that connects Osaka (Shin-Osaka Station) with Fukuoka (Hakata Station), appears to be reluctant to implement measures to deal with signs pointing to a possible accident and draw up instructions for emergencies although it forced through the downsizing of the inspection department. The company is also criticized for being unwilling to share information with Central Japan Railway Company (JR Tokai) operating the Tokaido Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka Station and Tokyo Station.

National Railway Workers’ Union Vice Chair Sasaki Ryuichi said, “JR West workers expressed concern over the longer check-up intervals when the company decided to implement this policy. The operator’s focus on increased profits has led to the recent serious incident.”
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