Snow no match for Japan's bullet train
Saturday 26 December 2009
When the mercury plummets in Japan, hot water is sprayed onto the bullet train's tracks -- one of several measures to ensure snow does not disrupt the high-speed services, famed for their punctuality.
When the mercury plummets in Japan, hot water is sprayed onto the bullet train's tracks - one of several measures to ensure snow does not disrupt the high-speed services, famed for their punctuality.
In contrast to the three-day shutdown of the Eurostar in the tunnel under the English Channel due to "fluffier" than expected snow, Japan's "shinkansen" trains are rarely delayed significantly by a cold snap.
Last December, a bullet train in northern Yamagata prefecture made the headlines due to a delay of just an hour and 25 minutes due to a snowstorm.
"We have various methods to tackle snowfalls: sprinkling hot water on tracks to melt the snow, putting ploughs on the front cars, and coating cables with a chemical substance that prevents snow sticking," a railway official said.
Eurostar said the severe delay to the Paris-London service appeared to be linked to powdery snow which built up in the engine and condensed on entry to the tunnel, causing electrical faults.
Japanese railway officials were careful Tuesday not to gloat that such a thing would never happen in Japan, saying that the cause of the Eurostar's problems were not yet completely clear.
Even Japan's technological prowess sometimes meets its match in mother nature, such as when earthquakes rattle the archipelago or typhoons bring strong wind and rains, causing delays to rail services.
Japan spends billions of yen on safety measures and steps to minimise delays to the shinkansen trains, which whisk hundreds of thousands of passengers across the world's number two economy every day.
The Tokaido Shinkansen connecting Tokyo and Osaka boasts a record of zero fatal accidents during its 44 years of commercial operations.
Operating 323 ultra-high speed services a day that run at up to 270 kilometres (168 miles) per hour, its average delay is less than one minute, according to Central Japan Railway Co.
For Japanese railway operators, public anger is perhaps a bigger fear than the natural disasters themselves, in a nation famous for its punctuality.
"In Japan everyone is aware of the impact a delayed train can have on society so Japanese railway operators and builders are very strict on security," said Takafumi Koseki, a professor at Tokyo University who specialises in transport engineering.
"Also, since the railway a pretty huge market in Japan, there's a lot of investment."
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
- 2 Fifa corruption: Europe plots to stage an 'alternative World Cup' in place of Russia 2018
- 3 How much sex should I be having?
- 4 Jaden Smith wears gender fluid dress to high school prom with Hunger Games actress
- 5 Live football streaming sites Rojadirecta, LiveTV and Drakulastream all completely banned from UK browsers
Rail strike: Two walk-outs by Network Rail staff called off following talks
Inside Travel: Greece 2015 Q&A - should we cancel our Greek holiday? Are our flights safe? And what will we be spending there?
The 10 Best flea markets
The most powerful passports in the world
The 10 Best lightweight luggage
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Why this year's general election was the most unfair in Britain's history
£25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...
£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...
£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...
£23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...