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Driver's errors fox investigators

01 Oct 2005

ON SEPTEMBER 6 the Aircraft & Railway Accidents Investigation Committee submitted an interim report into the crash of a JR West Series 207 EMU at Amagasaki on April 25 (RG 6.05 p299) to Transport Minister Kazuo Kitagawa. The report highlighted the driver's unusual behaviour but did not explain what may have caused him to act in the way he did.

The report confirms that the disastrous derailment that killed 106 passengers and injured 555 people was caused by the train over-speeding on the 304m radius curve. Data from the train had shown that driver Ryujiro Takami, who also died in the crash, applied normal braking after the train had entered the curve at 115 km/h, although the speed limit was just 70 km/h. Much to the surprise of the investigators, Takami failed to apply the emergency brake. The Committee suggested the fitting of ATS that would apply emergency braking automatically, as had happened earlier in the day when Takami had driven his train into Takarazuka station at excessive speed.

The report described the errors as 'unthinkable', prompting Prof Kozo Amano of Kyoto University to suggest that the driver may have been 'unconscious and unable to apply the brakes'. A fellow driver speculated that Takami may have been in a state of panic as he tried to make up for lost time, but the mystery may never be solved. As Head of the Investigation Committee Junzo Sato said, 'the driver is dead and the data recorder could not record his mental state'.

A final report into the accident is not expected for at least another year.