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More than 2/3 of Japan's busiest train stations still lack platform barriers

The safety screens are seen on a platform at Mejiro Station on JR East's Yamanote Line in Tokyo, on Dec. 7, 2016. A visually impaired passenger was killed after falling off the platform in January 2011, before the barriers were installed. (Mainichi)

Just 85 of Japan's 271 busiest train stations had barriers and safety doors installed on their platforms as of November this year, a Mainichi Shimbun investigation has found.

The Mainichi surveyed 33 railway companies on whether they had introduced platform doors following a string of accidents in August and October this year where visually impaired passengers fell onto the tracks at train stations.

The Japanese government has pressed railway companies to prioritize building platform barriers at their highest-volume stations. However, progress has stalled, with some firms claiming the barriers are impractical on narrow platforms and because different train models have doors in different positions.

Of the 33 companies queried by the Mainichi, 20 had installed platform barriers, accounting for 85 of the 271 train stations across Japan that handle 100,000 passengers per day or more. Of the remaining 13 firms, four had put in platform screen doors at stations with fewer than 100,000 daily passengers, while nine -- primarily in the Kansai region -- had not installed doors at any of their stations.

The nine companies were Hankyu Railway, Hanshin Electric Railway Co., Kintetsu Railway Co., Nankai Electric Railway Co., and Keihan Electric Railway Co. of Osaka, the Kobe Municipal Transportation Bureau, Nishi-Nippon Railroad Co. of Fukuoka, Keisei Electric Railway Co. of Tokyo, and the Kamagaya, Chiba Prefecture-based Shin-Keisei Electric Railway Co.

Four of these firms said they had plans to build platform barriers, with installations set for Hankyu's Juso Station in Osaka by spring 2019, Hanshin's Umeda Station also in Osaka by fiscal 2022, and the Kobe transport bureau's Sannomiya Station and Keisei's Nippori Station in fiscal 2017.

Meanwhile, the municipal subways in Yokohama, Sendai and Fukuoka, as well as Tokyo Monorail Co. and the Metropolitan Intercity Railway Co. for its Tsukuba Express line have set up platform safety doors at all of their stations, and say they have not seen any accidents involving visually impaired passengers since. East Japan Railway Co. (JR East), which is putting up the barriers at all the stations on its busy Yamanote Line in central Tokyo, announced on Dec. 13 that it would also install them at 37 stations on the Negishi and Keihin-Tohoku lines.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism first demanded railway firms install the barriers at stations handling 100,000 passengers per day or more in August 2011, following the death of a visually impaired person who fell onto the tracks at JR Mejiro Station in January that year.

According to a 2011 survey conducted by the Japan Federation of the Blind, 37 percent of the 252 respondents said they had fallen from a train platform at least once. Some 90 percent of those surveyed suggested platform doors to prevent these accidents.

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