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JR West to roll out Japan's 1st AI inspection train on ordinary lines in FY2025

West Japan Railway Co.'s comprehensive inspection train DEC741 is seen in the city of Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture, on Oct. 22, 2021. (Mainichi/Satoshi Hishida)

OSAKA -- West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) plans to introduce the country's first comprehensive route inspection train that uses artificial intelligence (AI) on ordinary railway lines in fiscal 2025, the company announced on Oct. 27.

    The DEC741 train is equipped to inspect routes with its dozens of onboard cameras while AI scans the images. It will be the first system of its kind to be used on conventional tracks by a domestic train operator.

    So far, inspections have primarily relied on human sight. By implementing AI, JR West aims to cover labor shortages, an increasingly serious issue for the railway industry.

    The inside of West Japan Railway Co.'s comprehensive inspection train DEC741 is seen in the city of Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture, on Oct. 22, 2021. (Mainichi/Satoshi Hishida)

    The railway operator said the single inspection train will consist of two cars. A total of 64 cameras are installed on its roof, sides and under the train cars; 44 infrared lights have been included for nighttime use. It takes images of tracks, power poles and traffic lights along the lines while traveling up to 100 kilometers per hour. The digital information is sent to analyzing equipment at a ground facility, and the AI checks for abnormalities, such as cracked tracks or damaged overhead wires. The train has a yellow paint stripe, making it easy to spot even at night, like the entirely-yellow "Doctor Yellow" inspection train for shinkansen bullet train routes.

    JR West is currently assessing the wear of overhead cables with an electric inspection train, and examining power poles and traffic lights primarily by sight. The company has decided to introduce the new versatile inspection train to check railroad facilities comprehensively when the electric inspection train is retired. It will start test operation next month, and intends to reduce 10% of visual inspection tasks by fiscal 2030.

    A company representative said regarding expectations for the new train, "By reducing visual inspections, we can lower the risk of electric shocks and other serious worker injuries."

    (Japanese original by Masaki Takahashi, Osaka City News Department)

    In Photos: JR West to roll out Japan's 1st AI inspection train on ordinary lines

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