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2013年9月26日 (木)

JR北海道 安全軽視の企業風土を改めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun September 26, 2013
JR Hokkaido must immediately get safety awareness back on track
JR北海道 安全軽視の企業風土を改めよ(9月25日付・読売社説)

The latest revelation of Hokkaido Railway Co.’s gross negligence of duty has dealt a crushing blow to public trust in the firm as a public transportation service provider. JR Hokkaido must reflect seriously on its lack of discipline, a task that should be followed by quick efforts to ensure safety comes first in its train services.

Track defects have been found at more than 200 spots along some JR Hokkaido lines. These flaws have been left unrectified despite the railway firm’s awareness that these tracks deviate in width and some other respects from standards set by the company.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry is currently conducting a special inspection of JR Hokkaido’s safety preservation system under the Railway Business Law. The investigation was initially scheduled to close on Monday. Alarmed by the discovery of numerous track defects, however, the ministry has extended its inspection period.

Thorough measures must be taken to determine why the large number of defects have developed, and to ensure such negligence is not repeated.

The track defects came to light after a freight train derailed on the JR Hakodate Line last Thursday, which prompted the company to conduct an emergency inspection of tracks in its service areas. JR Hokkaido discovered a large number of defects on side tracks used to park standby trains and main ones on which passenger trains run. The defects include many flaws even on the main tracks.

JR Hokkaido’s in-house regulations state that if a track is found to deviate in width from the firm’s standards to an impermissible level, such a defect must be repaired within 15 days. Despite this rule, defects discovered at some locations went uncorrected for close to one year.

The latest scandal indicates that JR Hokkaido has taken no steps to repair track defects despite being aware of such flaws. Where is the railway firm’s sense of duty to transport people in safety? Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga had good reason to decry JR Hokkaido’s conduct as “despicable.”

Latest in long line

Initially, the chief of JR Hokkaido’s construction department said no defect on main tracks would ever be left unrectified because of inspections by workers assigned to such a duty in each of the firm’s service areas and inspectors from the company’s headquarters. His remark revealed that even the JR official responsible for detecting and correcting track defects lacked proper awareness about how safety-control measures were being implemented at his corporation.

Top management at JR Hokkaido should be sternly brought to task for failing to discover their company’s outrageous negligence for a long time.

In 2011, JR Hokkaido put together an action plan for improving the safety of its train services, shortly after a limited express train derailed and was destroyed by fire along one of its lines. One of the plan’s pillars centered on correcting the firm’s tendency to slight the safety of its train services.

However, there seems to be no end to serious incidents involving JR Hokkaido trains, including train fires. On Tuesday, smoke was emitted from a carriage on the Nemuro Line.

Several days earlier, it came to light that a train driver had damaged a switch on his train’s automatic train stop system after causing the system to improperly function. He did so in an attempt to conceal his mistake.

Anyone would be disgusted by all these incidents.

A pressing task facing JR Hokkaido is to reform its organization, given its disgracefully lax discipline.

The company must fundamentally reexamine its methods for educating employees and hiring new workers. This is essential to make sure safety awareness is instilled in all JR Hokkaido employees. It is also worth considering hiring personnel from outside—for example, from other member companies of the JR Group.

It is feared that widespread safety concerns about JR Hokkaido’s train services could lead to fewer visitors to the firm’s service areas, thus adversely affecting the regional economy.

A high level of safety must be demanded for the new Shinkansen route that will open between Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate stations in fiscal 2015. There is serious cause for worry about JR Hokkaido’s status quo.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 25, 2013)
(2013年9月25日01時41分  読売新聞)


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