Death on the Tracks

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Maybe two weeks ago I rushed to the train station hoping to catch a train to my rehab, I was on a tight schedule since I needed to return to Tsu afterwards. When I arrived at the train station things were delayed. Rarely are the Kintetsu trains more than a minute or two behind schedule. Only a few things can cause delay:

  • Earthquake
  • Typhoon or heavy rainstorms
  • Lightning strike
  • Accident

After an earthquake they usually stop the trains while they are checking the tracks for alignment. If the power lines are intact and there isn’t any obvious track problem, I think they start running the trains at slow speeds until everything is fully checked out. This can create sizeable delays, but most folks are smart enough not to complain because “Safety First” is the motto around here.

I don’t fully understand why rainstorms can shutdown the tracks, but it could have to do with electric problems. Clearly, when a typhoon is passing through there are high winds and flooding, so I get why they put things on hold then.

Almost six years have passed and I’ve heard of one or two lightning strikes, which always require some repairs to be done.

Three varieties of accidents can occur: train, vehicle, and human. I’ve seen a couple minor derailments but have never heard of two trains hitting each other. Something very odd would have to occur to violate the safety procedures that much. Also, I haven’t heard of any train-vehicle accidents. One safety feature I noticed shortly after coming here was that every railroad crossing has a button to push if someone or something is stuck on the tracks. My understanding is that a signal is sent to every approaching train when a button is pushed. Human related accidents are the most problematic and hence most common.

When express or limited express trains go through local stations or railroad crossings they are moving pretty fast. Although the drivers are watchful and they’ll blast their horns if anyone is joking around too close to the tracks, if a person sets their mind to being hit by a train, there’s no way for the train to stop in time. Suicide rates in Japan are about 50% higher than America (a whole other lengthy post) and the common method is throwing oneself in front of a train. Some people say suicide is a selfish act; well, doing it in front of a train screws up the day for thousands and thousands of people.

My delay was indeed a suicide case, and the closest I have ever been to one. Once I caught a train, it rolled along slowly and when we went through Hisai station there was an army of workers crawling over the platform. Several people were taking copious notes and many others were measuring everything imaginable. Hearing about suicides always saddens me, but it was striking to see the aftermath. My hope is that more people abandon desperation and look to the future, so that we don’t have to worry about such a thing.

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3 Responses to “Death on the Tracks”

  1. titus2woman Says:

    How sad. (((((HUGS)))) sandi

  2. Stefanie Says:

    How so very sad. I think we’ve only had maybe one or two people commit suicide via commuter train here, but we’ve had quite a few deaths from the idiots who try to beat the train and drive under the guard arms or run across the tracks. They put the train divers on leave while the accident is investigated but also because it must be pretty traumatic for them too. I’ve been on a train during an accident or seen one happen and I hope I never do.

  3. Smithereens Says:

    This is sad indeed. In Paris, when they announce an “serious traveller incident” to explain the delays and perturbations, it’s a code for suicide. Your post made me smile though because Paris trains are notoriously late, and one main reason is strike, something your post forgot to mention. I think Japanese in Paris may not understand.

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