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Race to install platform doors as need for universal design grows ahead of Olympics

Platform edge "doors" made of yellow bars are seen on a platform at JR Haijima Station. (Mainichi)

Manufacturers of platform edge doors -- installed on railway platforms to prevent people from falling onto the tracks -- are experimenting with ways to lower their costs.

At JR Hachiko Line's Haijima Station, three yellow bars that form a fence-like structure, created by Tokyo-based traffic equipment manufacturer Takamisawa Cybernetics Co., have been test run since March 2015. They have the appearance of ropes on a pro-wrestling ring, but when a train approaches the station, they rise while making beeping sounds. A 75-year-old homemaker who uses the station said, "It gives me peace of mind that I won't accidentally fall onto the tracks."

According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism's Urban Railway Policy Division, installing platform edge doors cost between several hundred million yen to over 1 billion yen per station. The cost is split three ways among the central government, the municipal government and the railway company, but for railway companies, it's not a small amount of money.

Platform edge doors are generally very heavy, which means platform foundations must be reinforced before the doors can be installed. Such construction work can only be carried out between the last and first trains on each line, which, according to the ministry division, means that it can take between two to three years before construction is completed.

An LCD screen is embedded in a platform edge door at Tokyu Corp.'s Musashi-Kosugi Station. (Photo courtesy of Tokyu Corp.)

The platform edge bars at Haijima Station, however, are lightweight, simple constructions. They required very little reinforcement work and cost just 200 million yen to install.

Asahi Glass Co. and Mitsubishi Electric Co., meanwhile, have made platform edge doors with embedded liquid crystal display (LCD) screens that can show advertisements, and are in use at train stations operated by such companies as Tokyu Corp. This allows railway companies to collect advertising fees.

Stations used by a multiple of railway companies face the problem of a wide range in the number and location of train doors. To address this issue, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Transportation Equipment Engineering & Service Co., a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., developed a platform edge door whose opening is not the traditional 2 meters in width, but 3.5 meters. It is being test run at Keikyu Corp.'s Miurakaigan Station in Miura, Kanagawa Prefecture, which is used by 16 types of trains from four different companies, to check for durability and other criteria.

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