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Tokyo Station bullet train platform gaps shrunk to let wheelchair users board independently

A JR Tokyo Station Tokaido Shinkansen Line platform which has been renovated to reduce gap and height discrepancies between trains and platforms so that wheelchair users can board and get off bullet trains without assistance is seen on June 17, 2021. (Mainichi/Junichi Sasaki)
A JR Tokyo Station Tokaido Shinkansen Line platform which has been renovated to reduce gap and height discrepancies between trains and platforms so that wheelchair users can board and get off bullet trains without assistance is seen on June 17, 2021. (Mainichi/Junichi Sasaki)

TOKYO -- Height discrepancies and gaps between bullet trains and platforms on Tokyo Station's Tokaido Shinkansen Line have been reduced as part of barrier-free efforts to ensure wheelchair users can board and alight trains without station-staff assistance, the Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Central) announced June 17.

    JR Central has improved convenience at the platform ahead of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. The company said that while similar measures have been taken for standard train lines including the JR Yamanote Line and the underground Tokyo Metro's Marunouchi Line, it is the first implementation of barrier-free measures on Japan's bullet train platforms.

    Tokyo Station's Tokaido Shikansen Line platform had a 5- to 8-centimeter height difference and a 9- to 11-cm gap between trains pulling in. Under the circumstances, wheelchair users could not board and get off trains by themselves.

    The part of the platform for boarding carriages containing wheel-chair designated spaces was raised to reduce the height difference to 3 cm, and rubber plates also set at platform edges to limit the gap between it and trains to 7 cm.

    Works were completed on four of Tokyo Station's six bullet train platforms, and have rendered obsolete the ramps used when wheelchair users board and get off trains. The construction work, which began in October 2020, was completed June 10 at a cost of some 30 million yen ($272,100).

    Barrier-free maintenance guidelines by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism state that railway companies have a duty to work toward reducing platforms' gap and height discrepancies with trains.

    JR Central is also considering making the Tokaido Shinkansen Line platforms at Shin-Osaka Station barrier-free. President Shin Kaneko said at a June 17 press conference, "We'd want to make progress with reforms so passengers can use our trains safely and at ease."

    (Japanese original by Kunihiro Iwasaki, Tokyo City News Department)

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