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Railway wins design award for accident-reducing deer crossing in Mie Pref.

This photo shows the "shika fumikiri" section where there is a break in the netting for deer to cross the tracks, installed near Higashi-Aoyama Station in Tsu, Mie Prefecture. When trains are not in service and ultrasonic waves are not being broadcast, deer can hop over the low fence and cross the train track safely. (Photo courtesy of Kintetsu Railway Co.)

Kintetsu Railway Co.'s track entry-avoidance system has been recognized with a 2017 Good Design Award for protecting the safety of humans -- and also deer.

The "shika fumikiri" (Level Crossing System Preventing Deer Collision Accidents) installed by the railway company has shown to be effective in reducing the amount of train accidents involving deer. Instead of completely blocking the deer from crossing the tracks that traverse their habitat, the system takes a new approach by considering the situation from the perspective of the animals, and instead encouraging the deer to cross when there are no trains passing.

The system was set up in May 2016 near Higashi-Aoyama Station on Kintetsu's Osaka Line in Tsu, Mie Prefecture. Kintetsu installed 2.5-meter high netting along both sides of a roughly 1-kilometer stretch of the track to prevent animals from crossing, but left five locations for deer to safely traverse. When trains are in service and deer are most active, from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. to midnight, ultrasonic waves that are disliked by the animals are broadcast at the openings in the net to prevent them from using the crossings. When trains are not in service and deer are also active during the night, the waves are not broadcast and the deer can use the openings in the netting to cross safely to the other side.

As the amount of deer has been increasing, the number of accidents involving the animals has also been on the rise. In 2015, there were 17 accidents related to deer near Higashi-Aoyama Station. Up until May 2016, there were an additional two incidents, but since the system was installed, there were zero accidents for the rest of 2016, and as of October, only one collision in 2017.

For Kintetsu, with many lines running through mountainous areas, preventing accidents involving the forest creatures are a serious issue. In 2015, there were a total of 288 deer accidents along all of the company's lines -- more than double the 129 accidents in 2008. Kintetsu previously tied rope on both sides of the tracks to discourage crossing and also installed red LED lamps to chase away the deer. However, none of these measures were effective in solving the problem.

With the success of the new system, Kintetsu introduced the same concept along a 1-kilometer stretch of the Osaka Line between Haibara and Muroguchi-Ono stations in Uda, Nara Prefecture, in March. The company plans to increase the areas covered by the system in a policy to continue to "coexist" with the forest creatures.

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