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Tragedy averted when earthquake hits shinkansen derailed lessons learned

Tragedy averted when earthquake hits shinkansen derailed lessons learned


This image taken on March 17, 2022 shows carriages on the Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train that was derailed the day before due to a strong earthquake of magnitude 7.4 in Shiroshi, Miyagi Prefecture. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) – A Japanese railway operator said a disaster on a Shinkansen high-speed train derailed by a recent strong earthquake off northeastern Japan was averted and no injuries were reported, proving its safety once again thanks to measures taken after Big earthquakes. In the past.

All 78 passengers and crew aboard the Tohoku Shinkansen Express were unharmed after the 7.4-magnitude earthquake Wednesday evening, which killed three people and injured more than 180 in 12 prefectures, East Japan Railway said.

The earthquake off the coast of Fukushima caused a train to become stranded over a bridge while traveling between Fukushima Station and Shiroishizao Station.

According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, this is the second derailment of a high-speed train carrying passengers since October 2004 when an earthquake caused the Joetsu Shinkansen train to derail in Niigata Prefecture, northwest of Tokyo.

Hitoshi Tsunashima, a professor of railway engineering at Nihon University, said he suspected that the emergency brake activated by the earthquake early detection system on the Tohoku Shinkansen helped reduce the damage.

Early detection and emergency braking systems already proved effective in preventing a serious accident in 2011 when the massive M9.0 earthquake hit the same area.

When the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred in 2011, 27 Tohoku Shinkansen trains were running and they all came to a full stop safely. Only a low-speed test train in Sendai derailed.

According to JR East, the systems take advantage of seismographs installed along Shinkansen tracks to detect and stop moving trains during earthquakes.

The latest version of the systems includes data from the Japan Meteorological Agency’s earthquake warning system and seismometers installed on the ocean floor.

JR East also developed special metal fittings after Niigata’s 2004 derailment. L-shaped fittings on trains capture rails during events such as earthquakes, reducing the amount of movement and the risk of derailing or colliding with other objects along the tracks.

As for the railways, the company has taken steps to prevent it from falling and causing trains to capsize.

A Transport Ministry official said the measures worked as intended, but the damage to related equipment such as electric poles revealed deficiencies in the existing earthquake-resistant infrastructure.

In the aftermath of the M7.3 earthquake off the coast of Fukushima in February 2021, damage to electric poles occurred in areas outside of the so-called priority areas where JR East focused its efforts to improve the earthquake resistance of infrastructure, selecting sites likely to experience particularly strong shaking. Based on active fault data collected from the 2011 earthquake and the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake in western Japan.

The operator said it would review the expansion of its priority area and double the frequency of earthquake fortification of electric poles, but it would take another seven years to complete.

Tohoku Shinkansen services have been suspended between Nasushiobara Station and Morioka Station. JR East said it will take time to understand the full extent of the damage and make necessary repairs, and services are unlikely to resume in March.

On Friday, the company said the quake damaged 10 sites and 24 electric poles, while cutting overhead power lines at two sites. It confirmed 20 cases of structural damage to other facilities such as stations and bridges.




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