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Railways to install platform doors at 90 stations following deaths of visually impaired

A platform door is pictured at JR Mejiro Station in Toshima Ward, Tokyo, in this Dec. 7, 2016 file photo. (Mainichi)

Two fatal accidents in which visually impaired people fell from railway station platforms and were hit by trains last year have prompted railway operators to install platform doors at 90 stations, a Mainichi Shimbun survey has shown.

In the survey, the Mainichi interviewed representatives of 28 major railway operators that have at least one station used by over 100,000 people daily, excluding five companies that have already installed platform doors at all of their stations.

Ten of the 28 railway operators replied that they have decided to install doors at 91 stations they manage. Nine of them, which will install such doors at 90 of their stations, explained that their decisions were prompted by the two fatal and highly publicized accidents in August and October 2016.

Many of the 10 railway operators have decided to install platform doors not only at stations used by over 100,000 passengers a day as recommended by the government, but also at other stations where accidents have frequently occurred and those used by many handicapped passengers.

Tokyo-based Tobu Railway Co. is poised to set up platform doors at 31 of its stations, the largest number of all the 10 railway operators. Of the 31 stations, platform doors will be installed at eight stations by the end of fiscal 2020, with installation coming at the remaining 23 stations later on. The company will install platform doors at all its 11 stations used by over 100,000 people a day, though it has not been decided when the work will be completed. The company is prioritizing the installation of such doors at Kita-Koshigaya and Asaka stations in Saitama Prefecture, as Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic venues are situated nearby.

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) has decided to set up platform doors at 29 of its stations, and the installation of such doors will have been completed at all the 36 stations on its Keihin-Tohoku Line between Omiya and Yokohama stations sometime after fiscal 2021.

JR East is considering bringing forward its installation of platform doors at Warabi Station on the Keihin-Tohoku Line -- where a fatal accident involving a visually impaired passenger occurred in January this year -- while the work was originally scheduled to have been completed by the end of fiscal 2020.

"As the issue of safety on railway station platforms is drawing closer attention than ever, we're determined to fulfill our social responsibility," said a JR East official.

Besides the 10 railway operators, Tokyo Metro Co., operator of a major subway network in Tokyo, has incorporated a plan to set up platform doors at all its stations in its business plan, although it has not decided on a deadline.

A fatal accident at its Aoyama-itchome Station in August last year has prompted the company to bring forward the schedule for installing platform doors at 24 stations on its three lines by four months to a year. The doors will have been set up at Aoyama-itchome Station by December this year, nine months earlier than originally planned.

As of the end of March 2016, platform doors had been installed at 665 railway stations, approximately 7 percent of the some 9,500 stations across the country, according to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry.

In addition to the costs ranging from hundreds of millions of yen to over 1 billion yen per station for installing platform doors, differences in the positions of doors depending on the train model, and difficulties in securing enough space on platforms, have made it difficult for railway operators to install platform doors.

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