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Only 30% of large train stations equipped with platform doors

Despite the potential danger posed by train station platforms to blind people, only about 30 percent of the country's 251 stations used by at least 100,000 people a day are equipped with platform doors to prevent passengers from falling onto railway tracks, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.

The finding comes after a visually impaired man led by a guide dog fell onto the tracks at a Tokyo Metro Ginza Line station and was fatally run over by an oncoming train on Aug. 15.

The Mainichi Shimbun queried the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and found that only 77 of the 251 stations used by at least 100,000 people daily were equipped with platform doors as of the end of March this year. When it comes to stations used by at least 3,000 passengers a day, slightly less than 20 percent, or 665, of the approximately 3,500 such stations across the country were equipped with platform doors.

Swift installment of platform doors at stations is called for as the Aug. 15 accident could have been prevented if such doors had been set up at the station. In the accident, 55-year-old company employee Naoto Shinada from Tokyo's Setagaya Ward was hit by a train at Aoyama-itchome Station at around 5:45 p.m. on Aug. 15 on his way home from work, according to the Akasaka Police Station and other sources. The Japan Federation of the Blind has decided to conduct an independent investigation into the case.

According to the transport ministry, the number of accidents in which passengers fell off platforms -- regardless of whether they were disabled or not -- rose about 1.5 times from 2,442 in fiscal 2009 to 3,673 in fiscal 2014. Among these, the number of cases in which visually impaired people fell onto tracks increased from 38 in fiscal 2009 to 92 in fiscal 2012, 75 in fiscal 2013 and 80 in fiscal 2014. The number of cases in which visually handicapped people fell from platforms and were struck by trains or came in contact with trains while on platforms stood at between one to four each year since fiscal 2009.

Tokyo Metro Co. analyzed the cause of passengers' falls from platforms and found that in many cases passengers accidentally tumbled off when they were getting on or off a train where the gap between the platform and the train carriages was wide. Platforms that gently curve require passengers' particular attention as the gap is wider around the top of the curve.

In 2011, the transport ministry called on railway companies to prioritize platform door installation at stations in central Tokyo that are used by over 100,000 passengers a day until the target year of 2020. The ministry has also requested railway operators to basically set up either platform doors or Braille blocks that alert passengers against platform edges at stations used by at least 3,000 passengers daily. Starting in fiscal 2011, the ministry has subsidized a little over 30 percent of the costs for platform door installation.

According to a 2011 survey by the Japan Federation of the Blind, 92 of the 252 people who responded to the poll, or 37 percent, said they had fallen from platforms in the past, while 151 respondents, or 60 percent, said they came close to falling from platforms. With regard to effective measures to prevent plunges from platforms, 228 pollees chose platform door installation, the most common answer to the question where multiple answers were allowed.

Currently, the ratio of platform door installation varies greatly among railway operators in the capital. While some 60 percent of stations managed by Toei Subway and around 80 percent of JR Yamanote Line stations are equipped with platform doors, only 47 percent of Tokyo Metro stations have platform doors installed.

As it is necessary to renovate stations to allow them to withstand the weight of platform doors before installing them, Tokyo Metro expects to finish installing platform doors at all of its aging Ginza Line stations in fiscal 2021. The company has finished introducing platform doors at all stations along four of its nine subway lines.

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