Japanese trains are not perfect either, as these incidents show

Photo: Pixabay

Whenever Singapore’s MRT trains break down, many people lament how problematic or inefficient they are, often citing how amazing Japan’s trains are. It does look like a striking difference in quality of service, especially when there are cases like Japanese train company apologising for leaving the station 20 seconds early.

While we see a lot of their positive side, it does not mean that Japanese rail operators do not make mistakes of their own. In fact, there have been quite a number of negative incidents recently.

Last week, a burning smell and weird noises were emitting from a Shinkansen Nozomi high-speed train leaving Fukuoka for Tokyo. It was later discovered that the train bogie, the steel frame that holds the train body and the wheels together, had cracked. The metal part connecting to the motor was also found to have changed colour and was oil-stained. The transportation safety committee has regarded this as Shinkansen’s first serious incident. For fear of the crack worsening and resulting in derailing, the train was forced to stop at Nagoya station.


The crack was said to be more than 10cm in length.

And, in mid-December 2017, a Shinkansen Kodama train leaving Nagoya for Tokyo was reported to have left the station without opening its doors to about 200 commuters. When the train staff realised this unnatural mistake, the emergency stop button was activated and the train reversed back about 20 metres into the station.


A commuter thought the train was adjusting its position by moving forward but it went too far ahead.

And recently on 16 December, the overhead wires of the JR Keihin-Tohoku line were cut. It took almost seven hours for the service to resume. The Tokaido and Yokosuka lines, which run simultaneously, were halted temporarily leading to a total of 92 trains stopped. Some 214 trains were delayed and about 220,000 people were affected. Three trains that stopped between the stations were carrying about 2,400 commuters, who were directed to alight and walk to the nearest station.


The inconvenience caused was believed to be due to a short-circuit resulting from some wiring works near the area.


A commuter caught in this overly crowded situation joked, “Is this a peak period?”

After seeing the above incidents, we can only say there is no perfect train service. Even Japanese trains which are known for its efficiency face similar setbacks because of wear and tear, miscommunication and carelessness, or collectively known as unforeseen circumstances.


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