A working group of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) has decided as a general rule to have railway operators install platform doors on all train stations that handle at least 100,000 passengers per day by fiscal 2020.
The doors are designed to prevent people from falling onto the train tracks. At stations without any platform doors, station staff in principle will assist visually impaired passengers as a general rule.
The decision -- which was made during a MLIT panel meeting on Dec. 22 -- means that the original plan of installing platform doors now comes with a deadline, and has therefore been accelerated.
In August and October this year, there was a recurrence of accidents in which visually impaired passengers fell onto the tracks at train stations and died. Following these accidents, the MLIT panel and railway companies have held meetings, and on Dec. 22 produced an interim report.
The report states that train stations which handle at least 100,000 passengers per day will install platform doors by fiscal 2020, and in cases where installation is not feasible, new types of technology such as barriers that can be raised and lowered are required to be installed by fiscal 2021.
In 2011, MLIT wanted to prioritize installation of platform doors at stations with at least 100,000 passengers per day, after accidents in such stations began to stand out. However, bottlenecks began to occur because the position of the train doors varied according to the type of train. And as of March 2016, only 82 stations out of the target of 260 stations have platform doors installed. Of the remaining 178 stations, approximately 60 stations have no problems regarding installation conditions.
In addition, MLIT has also decided that it will introduce Braille blocks that indicate which side of the platform the train track is on at all train stations that handle at least 10,000 passengers per day by fiscal 2020. In addition, if these stations have dead space at the ends of platforms, guard fences will be installed by fiscal 2020.
At the stations that do not have platform doors, if a visually impaired person is spotted walking in the station alone, a member of the station staff will assist that person and help them board their train. The person will also be assisted at the station where they alight, if so requested, and even if the passenger turns down the offer of assistance, they will be watched over until they board their train.
Until now, station workers at each railway company have assisted visually impaired passengers at their own discretion. However, now that station staff will as a general rule help visually impaired passengers, it is thought that other passengers will feel encouraged to cooperate. In addition, increased information for passengers, which clearly explains the ways in which visually impaired passengers are to be assisted, will be placed in train stations using materials such as posters.