On 25th April 2005, the Amagasaki derailment was the fatal derailment occurred just after the rush hour. A seven-car commuter train came off the tracks on the JR West Fukuchiyama Line in Amagasaki, Hyogo prefecture near Osaka, just before Amagasaki Station on its way for Dōshisha-mae via the JR Tōzai Line and the Gakkentoshi Line, and the front two carriages rammed into an apartment building. The first carriage slid into the first floor parking garage and as a result took days to remove, while the second slammed into the corner of the building, being crushed against it by the weight of the remaining carriages. Of the roughly 700 passengers (initial estimate was 580 passengers) on board at the time of the crash, 106 passengers, in addition to the driver, were killed and 562 others injured. Most passengers and bystanders have said that the train appeared to have been travelling too fast. The incident was Japan’s most serious since the 1963 Tsurumi rail accident in which two passenger trains collided with a derailed freight train, killing 162 people.
Train details and crash:
The train involved was train number 5418M, a limited-stop “Rapid” commuter service from Takarazuka to Dōshisha-mae. It was a seven-car 207 series electric multiple unit (EMU) formation consisting of a 4-car set and a 3-car set coupled together as shown below, with car 1 leading. The train was carrying approximately 700 passengers at the time of the accident.
The front four cars derailed completely, with the first car ramming into the parking lot of the apartment building and the second car colliding into the external wall of the building becoming almost completely compacted by the third and fourth cars, which were themselves pushed from the rear by the fifth car.
The investigators have primarily focussed on the speeding by 23 year old driver, as being the most likely cause of derailment. As 25 minutes before the derailment, Takami had run a red signal, causing the automatic train stop (ATS) to bring the train to a halt. The train also had overshot the correct stopping position at an earlier stop at Itami station requiring him to back up the train and resulting in 90 second delay. By the time train passed Tsukaguchi station at a speed 120km/hr, the dela had been reduced to 60 seconds.
The investigators speculate that driver may have been trying to make up the lost time by increasing the speed than desired. It is also speculated that the driver may have felt stressed because he would have been punished for the two infractions. As the West Japan Railway company is very strict when it comes to punctuality of train schedules to commute workers and passengers on time. This is also because at stations trains meet on both sides of the same platform to allow people transfer between rapid and local trains running on the same line. As a result, a small delay in one train can significantly cascade through the timetable for the rest of the day due to the tightness of the schedule. In fact, cumulative changes over the previous three years had reduced the leeway in the train’s schedule from 71 to 28 seconds over the 15 minutes between Takarazuka and Amagasaki stations.
Some important points noted were:
1. Speed limit on the segment of track where the derailment happened was 70 km/hr. 2. Data recorder in the rear of the train later showed that the train was at 116 km/hr at that point. 3. A series of simulations and calculation performed by investigators that resulted a train would derail over a speed of 106 km/hr. 4. Driver was also very stressed to cover the delay time due to the prior infractions in schedule. 5. Driver also realised train was going too fast four seconds before the derailment and he applied the service brake instead of emergency brake, presumably to avoid another infraction since the use of emergency brake had to be justified.
Nagata, Takashi; Rosborough, Stephanie N.; VanRooyen, Michael J.; Kozawa, Shuichi; Ukai, Takashi; Nakayama, Shinichi (September–October 2006). “Express Railway Disaster in Amagasaki: A Review of Urban Disaster Response Capacity in Japan”. Prehosp Disaster Med. 21 (5): 345.
’05 JR West crash victims, families still suffer effects.” The Daily Yomiuri. 21 April 2008. Archived from the original on 30 April 2008. Retrieved 21 September 2019.
Nagase, Kazuhiko (July 2005). “福知山線脱線事故の問題を語る” [Discussing the problems of the Fukuchiyama Line derailment]. Railway Journal. Japan: Tetsudō Journal. 39 (465): 68–73.