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JR West holds emergency drill following bullet train crack incident

Maintenance workers inspect the outer parts of a bullet train at JR Shin-Iwakuni Station, in the Yamaguchi Prefecture city of Iwakuni, in an emergency drill conducted on Nov. 19, 2018. (Mainichi/Toyokazu Tsumura)

OSAKA -- West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) conducted an emergency drill on Nov. 19 on the assumption that strange smells and smoke were detected in a Sanyo Shinkansen Line train, following a bullet train undercarriage crack incident in December last year.

The bullet train used in the drill ran between Hakata and Hiroshima stations, from the city of Fukuoka to the city of Hiroshima in western Japan. About 120 participants verified how information should be shared and other ways to respond to emergency situations.

In the drill, a passenger notified a station attendant that they could smell "strange odors from inside the carriage" after disembarking from the bullet train. The employee then shared this information with the Shinkansen General Control Center based in Tokyo. A train conductor patrolled inside the carriages following an order from the control center. A maintenance worker pressed the emergency button upon confirming the unusual smell, similar to that of paint, and smoke. The train driver brought the train to an emergency stop and two maintenance crew and a conductor inspected the undercarriage at Shin-Iwakuni Station in the Yamaguchi Prefecture city of Iwakuni in western Japan.

In the case of the crack found last year in an undercarriage of the Nozomi No. 34 superexpress bound for Tokyo from Hakata, the bullet train stayed in service for three hours even after the conductor and maintenance workers confirmed the abnormal noise and smell. The behavior of those operating the train at the time to leave the decision of whether to stop the train up to others was cited as problematic. The Japan Transport Safety Board recognized the case as a "serious incident" -- the first of such a kind for a bullet train.

(Japanese original by Takashi Yamashita, Osaka City News Department)

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