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The Status of Measures in Response to the Accident on the Uetsu Line

East Japan Railway Company

December 18, 2007

The train accident on the Uetsu Line between Sagoshi and Kita-Amarume on December 25, 2005, resulted in injuries to many passengers and the loss of several lives. Now, as we approach the second anniversary of this tragic event, we offer our heartfelt prayers for those who lost their lives and express our deep regret to those who suffered in the accident, to the bereaved, and to the families of those involved.

The causes of the accident are presently under investigation by the Aircraft and Railway Accidents Investigation Commission of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. JR East has also established an Uetsu Line Accident Investigation and Countermeasures Deliberation Committee, but the accident's causes have not yet been determined.

Strong winds have been identified as one causal factor. We have taken measures to improve safety in this regard, and the status of these activities is described below:

  1. Status of implementation of major measures being taken in response since the occurrence of the accident

    The status of implementation of measures announced in "Progress and Ongoing Measures in Response to the Uetsu Line Accident" on December 20 last year is as follows:

    • Construction of windbreak fences (Attachment 1)
      The decision was made to construct windbreak fences at 10 locations, including the No. 2 Mogamigawa Bridge. This construction has been completed according to plan, and use of the windbreaks has begun. We will conduct a study to determine whether there are any places requiring further construction.
    • Introduction of a strong wind warning system (Attachment 2)

      The introduction of these systems as initially planned at 19 locations on six railway lines has been completed. Since then we have been moving to introduce the systems on all our lines, and the total number is expected to reach 65 locations on 17 railway lines by the end of December 2007.The earlier enforcement of train operation restrictions will continue to be implemented on a provisional basis on all lines.

    The strong wind warning system uses continuous wind speed measurement data to forecast the maximum possible wind speed when the train is traveling on sections between stations that are designated as subject to speed restrictions during strong winds. When this maximum forecast wind speed exceeds the level specified in the regulation, train operation restrictions (reduced speed and suspension of operation) are to be enforced. Train operation restrictions are also to be enforced when the actual observed wind speed (actual wind speed) exceeds the regulation value. Restrictions will then be lifted when both the maximum forecast wind speed and actual wind speed are below the regulation value.
  2. Status of progress on items currently being addressed

    Progress has been made on those items identified for ongoing measures in "Progress and Ongoing Measures in Response to the Uetsu Line Accident" on December 20 last year, as described below:

    • Creation of strong-wind maps to verify rail sections designated for train operation restrictions

      In the past, rail sections designated for train operation restrictions (reduced speed and suspension of operation) have been determined from past on-site surveys, the experience of local employees, and other such factors. Other actions we have taken to further enhance safety with respect to wind include the creation of strong-wind maps by simulations of atmospheric wind conditions and landforms, verification with local personnel, and other such measures to reconfirm those rail sections where operation restrictions are to be enforced.
      ·  As a result, we have added 75 sections of railway lines to the 221 sections already designated for restrictions in the event of strong winds. We will immediately install wind gauges and enforce operation restrictions under strong-wind conditions.
    • Trial implementation to verify the validity and practical issues involved when using meteorological information to enforce operation restrictions (Attachment 3)

      The forecasting of strong winds involves technical problems with improvement of forecast accuracy. However, meteorological information (weather maps and meteorological radar) can be used to identify the passage of cold fronts, the height of cumulonimbus clouds, echo intensity, and other such factors. We have been collecting data on the combined use of these indicators to forecast strong winds, and we have been studying the value of applying this information to train operations as well as identifying the practical issues involved.
      ·  Starting in January 2008, we plan to initiate trials of methods to enforce train operation restrictions using this meteorological information on the Uetsu Line and Hakushin Line, in Niitsu, and between Niigata and Sakata.
    • Conduct of research on observation by Doppler radar (Attachment 4)

      Doppler radar has been used at some airports to monitor local strong winds. The Meteorological Agency is also planning to expand its installation of Doppler radars to improve the meteorological observation network. Railways do not have any past record of the use of Doppler radar for meteorological observation, but JR East installed one such radar at Amarume Station on the Uetsu Line in January 2007, as an aid in predicting localized strong winds. It began observation of the weather, including at accident sites, in March of that year. We intend to pursue the possibility of putting this system to use in train operations in the future.
      ·  JR East is engaged in developing a proposal for a prototype system using Doppler radar to detect strong winds. This involves collaboration on research with extramural research institutions, including joint research with the Meteorological Research Institute of the Meteorological Agency, the Railway Technical Research Institute, and Kyoto University.