Japan rail firm turns to cameras to spot drunk behaviour

TOKYO - A Japanese railway company is turning to cameras as a way to spot drunken behaviour and keep late-boozing patrons from tumbling onto the tracks, a spokesman said Wednesday.

West Japan Railways (JR West) has installed nearly 50 closed-circuit television cameras at its Kyobashi train station in Osaka to stop accidents that frequently involve legions of late-drinking "salarymen".

The suited city workers are well-served by extensive urban train networks that whisk them back home at the end of the night.

While the worst that happens to most corporate warriors is nodding off and missing their stop, a small number are hurt or killed in stations every year by plunging onto the tracks.

"The cameras are meant to detect passengers behaving abnormally - including those who are feeling ill - as quickly as possible so that plunging accidents can be prevented," the spokesman told AFP.

The new system would automatically detect odd movements, such as unsteady walking or passengers sitting on a bench for an unusually long time, and set off an alarm to prevent potential trouble.

The cameras mark the latest move taken by JR West -- which operates around Osaka, a commercial hub, and the ancient city of Kyoto -- after it changed the direction of platform benches in March.

The seats were rotated to face along the platform rather than the tracks in the hopes of stopping drunken passengers from marching headlong into trouble.

Before the cameras were installed last week, station employees were tasked with keeping an eagle eye on at-risk travellers.

JR West said it would consider expanding the pilot project to other stations.

An internal company study found most people who had fallen onto the tracks had done so after waking up from an alcohol-infused slumber on benches and then walking straight over the platform's edge.

About 60 per cent of some 3,000 annual cases involving passengers falling onto train tracks were due to alcohol, according to Japan's transport ministry.