JAPAN - Hokkaido Railway Co. failed to repair 97 track defects, some of them on main lines used by passenger trains every day, according to the company.
The revelation emerged from an in-house investigation conducted after the derailment of a JR Hokkaido freight train near Onuma Station on JR Hakodate Line in Nanae, Hokkaido, on Thursday. No one was injured in the accident.
On Saturday, the company revealed nine defects found in its side tracks, which are used to park trains on standby and for other purposes. However, at a Sunday press conference at company headquarters in Chuo Ward, Sapporo, JR Hokkaido announced an additional 88 defects had been discovered, bringing the total to 97.
JR Hokkaido President Makoto Nojima said at the press conference that of the 88 newly found defects, 49 were discovered on main lines, which are used by passenger trains on a daily basis.
All of the nine defects that were announced Saturday involved expansion in track widths that exceeded company standards-19 millimeters in curves and 14 millimeters in straight sections. However, the 88 newly discovered defects included more serious problems. In some cases, the height of the right and left track differed, while in others the tracks were distorted.
The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry is conducting special inspections to determine whether there have been violations of the Railway Business Law. After looking into why the company left the defects unaddressed, the ministry will determine how to handle the problem, with a view toward issuing an order for business improvement or some other administrative disposition.
According to the Sunday announcement, JR Hokkaido examined its inspection records of main lines in response to the transport ministry's order for emergency inspections of tracks. This revealed that track defects had been left untouched at 49 locations on main lines, including one between Nanae and Mori stations on the Hakodate Line.