In Japan, train “accidents” occur very often. Japan often has the image that people kill themselves by throwing themselves in front of a fast moving train from the platform. I’m sure this happens at times but I don’t know how common it truly is. When people see that someone was hit by a train and the line is delayed, too often people say that someone decided to ruin their day by killing themselves. It is a bit insensitive and I actually believe this is only a fraction of what really happens. I usually think it is an inebriated person who either stumbled onto the tracks or was hit by the train because they weren’t paying attention. Recently, people have been hit by trains because they just weren’t paying attention. It is very common for people to walk close to the edge in order to get to their desired train car or to exit the station. In today’s world of dumbwalking, people are listening to music or something and are unable to really hear the trains coming. They are also busy texting, checking Facebook, or something else, so they don’t even see the train or the warnings that the train is coming. One of the simplest methods to prevent these types of accidents is to put up a safety barrier. When travelling to other countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore, there are barriers at almost every station. I was originally surprised by this and how Japan, a country touted as having excellent technology, has a terrible record of building platform barriers. Upon investigating this problem I have discovered the main reason this is a problem, but thankfully they have recently started to install barriers on some train lines.
The Nanboku Line is one of the best examples of where barriers are used and used well. They have full floor to ceiling barriers. On the Oedo Line, it took well over 10 years since the opening of the line to install barriers. The new barriers are pretty good and will prevent people from accidentally falling onto the tracks. Other lines like the Marunouchi Line also followed suit but the JR Lines and many other lines have fallen behind. This is not due to the fact that the train companies don’t want to improve safety, and it isn’t due to the costs, at least not directly. The main reason they don’t install barriers is due to the logistics. There are a lot of universities that are testing new barriers in hopes to solve these problems. Many train lines in Tokyo connect with different lines and the trains used on the lines have doors in different positions. Some have 3 doors, others have 4. This problem has required the train companies to look into various inventive methods to create safety barriers for their platforms.
One of the coolest versions of safety barriers is one where the barriers physically shift around the platform. The barrier doors and walls shift around on the platform so that they are aligned correctly when the next train arrives. Another system created a “rod” or rope barrier where the rods shift up above the doors of the train when it arrives. This is interesting but not as safe as a full barrier. I can imagine someone, or some child, putting their hand around the rope just before it shifts up and getting injured, but something is better than nothing. The future of barrier technology in Japan will get better and you will see barriers at all train stations in Tokyo someday in the future. I just don’t believe it will be anytime soon but at least they are working on it. Installing barriers is better than when JR East installed blue lights at the ends of the platforms because it “helps calm people down so they don’t commit suicide”.
Below is a video/are videos demonstrating the new technologies: