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HOME  > Past issues  > 2012 December 5 - 11  > Operator of collapsed tunnel prioritized profits over safety
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2012 December 5 - 11 [POLITICS]

Operator of collapsed tunnel prioritized profits over safety

December 6, 2012
It has come to light that an operating company of Japan’s expressways neglected to take appropriate measures to prevent accidents for fear of high repair costs. Recently, nine people were killed in a cave-in accident in a tunnel on an expressway run by the company.

Akahata reported this fact on December 6 based on the testimonies of persons concerned.

On the morning of December 2, the concrete ceiling panels of the Sasago Tunnel (4,700 meters long) on the Chuo Expressway, west of Tokyo, collapsed and killed nine persons.

According to the report, the Central Nippon Expressway Company had removed the ceiling panels and replaced the lights of the Kobotoke Tunnel (2,000 meters long, near Tokyo) in 2001 and in 2003. The tunnel has the same structure as the collapsed Sasago Tunnel.

The corporation replied to Akahata, “We repaired some spots of other tunnels along with the Kobotoke. We had also considered making repairs on the Sasago Tunnel, but didn’t reach a conclusion.”

Persons who were involved in the maintenance of those superhighways said to Akahata, “Some people concerned with the repair work of the Kobotoke warned that the Sasago should be repaired immediately as well, and that the Sasago is more dangerous than the Kobotoke. I heard that the improvement work of the Sasago has been put off because it would cost too much due to its length.”

Japanese Communist Party Lower House member Kokuta Keiji on the same day issued a comment as follows:

I express my strong anger at the fact that the operating company’s profit-minded management style caused such a serious accident. At a budget committee meeting in the Diet in March, I proposed refraining from building new expressways because it is costly to maintain social infrastructure such as roads and bridges.

Nevertheless, the government is planning to put as much as 33 trillion yen into the construction of superhighways. To protect the lives of the public, the state should give priority not to large-scale development projects but to the maintenance of the existing structures.

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