8cm Crack in the Rail at Soga Station
February 28, 2007


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(Union News "Daily DORO CHIBA" No.6425,)(Japanes)

8cm Crack in the Rail at Soga Station
Serious Danger
Drastic measures needed!
Privatization caused safety catastrophe
Broken rail and recent derailment in UK

8cm crack in rail once again

On February 20, the service of 35 up and down trains of the Keiyo Line were suspended because of cracked rail on the track at Soga station.
The notice of the maintenance of way personnel who found the crack of 8cm length in the rail prevented a serious rail accident. Nevertheless a terrible condition of rail safety has been exposed to the public. As is indicated by the photo, the joint of the rail was fractured. The photo further shows that the crack had almost reached the top of the rail. By a little more pressure on the rail, the surface of the rail could have been scraped off for 8cm length and 2cm depth. A fatal derailment of the train or a collision with another train on the adjoining track might have taken place.

The maintenance of way personnel, our fellow workers of Kokuro union members, have confessed they had never before witnessed a crack on the rail developing in such a violent way. A cracked rail is more dangerous than a broken rail in that the signal would not alarm when only the surface of the rail were scraped off by the crack, maintaining the electric stream on the rail.
It was discovered further that the rail, which has got cracked, was laid only four years ago. Recent visual inspections (most recently on February 7) could not detect the crack. Even JR's "cutting edge" Rail Measurement Train was unable to find out the defect since the crack has seemingly developed from the bottom to the top of the rail.

Drastic safety measures are needed!

We have currently forced the JR company to replace damaged rails for 60km, while waging safety drive struggle in defiance of company's unjust punishment, watching and intimidation in the drivers cabs. In spite of the renewal of rails, fresh defects have been found one after another. Thus rail replacement seems to require a larger-scale operation than was expected before. Disclosures of broken rails and cracked rails are now taking place incessantly. It is really an emergency for rail safety!
The second and the third Amagasaki accidents would be inevitable if the rails remain as it is today. It is really urgent for rail safety to stop outsourcing of track maintenance and to hand it back to in house maintenance, to conduct visual inspection and investigation more often as before, to finance maintenance of way and necessary personnel for it much more largely, to reduce traveling speed of trains, to abolish bolsterless carriages that give intense lateral force to the side of rail, etc. The JR company should immediately take drastic safety measures and execute thorough investigation of the cause of current rail defects.

Recent derailment in UK

On February 23 in Lambrigg in northwest England, a serious rail accident took place. A high-speed train derailed and rolled down the side of steep embankment. Its cause is reported to be drop-off of stretcher bars and bolts to fix them. Network Rail, a track operator company that has undertaken the business as a result of railway privatization, has admitted it.
Though the casualties were miraculously small with one person killed and 22 passengers hospitalized, the train driver got his neck bone gravely fractured. UK medias comment the accident, saying, "Engineering experts said further fatalities were prevented by the strength of the carriages. This accident actually highlights the engineering advances that have been made over the past few years to maintain the structural integrity of trains and keep passengers safe."
Just imagine how serious the fatalities might have been if the carriages had been made of extra-light stuff as in Japan as a result of rationalization policy. Though the train traveled at a high speed of 151mph (95mph), the basic structure of the carriages, as is shown in the photos, remain unchanged. It was a difference from the case of the Amagasaki accident, in which the rolling stock became a heap of scrap iron.

Inevitable result of railway privatization

Brother Bob Crow, general secretary of RMT, remarked the derailment as follows:
"It is bad enough that there are still contractors, sub-contractors, labour-only agencies and one-man-and-a-trolley outfits let loose on the tracks under Network Rail.
"Handing the track network to the private sector was bad enough when it was done by a single organization, but splitting it up and handing it to a host of operators whose sole aim is to make a profit would be a recipe for further disaster.
"Trains and tracks should be operated by the same organization, but that organization should be publicly owned and controlled.
"Network Rail's chief executive Armitt told that all Network Rail's track maintenance and inspection work is carried out in-house. The reality contradicts his claim. In fact, Network Rail has current contracts with private engineering firms. The company is intentionally failing to fill, and freezing, vacancies in a bid to cut costs, preferring to farm the work out to contractors. As many as 60,000 on-Network Rail workers, from a myriad of private firms, have access to the trackside as part of their job. In many cases Network Rail has no idea who these workers are."
Thus the latest derailment in Lambrigg in UK took place as an inevitable result of the privatization and outsourcing.

Just Like JR company also in UK

In 2002, seven passengers died in a derailment at Potters Bar, north of London. Its cause was insufficient condition of the turnout. Moreover, two years earlier four people were killed in a derailment at Hatfield near London.
In UK, rail maintenance system is apparently collapsing as a result of privatization. Also in the operation of the Japan Railway Companies similar thing is happening. We cannot overlook this situation. No fight, no safety. It is now imperative that the struggle for safe drive against rationalization (or labor-saving and outsourcing) should be strengthened.

In the hearing on Amagasaki accident

The Accident Investigation Committee of the Land, Infrastructure and Transportation Ministry (LITM) published last December a Draft Report of Fact-finding Mission on Amagasaki accident and held a hearing on February 1, 2007 to draw up a final report. The vice-president of the Japan Railway West, who was summoned to the hearing, shamelessly justified company's faulty practices, saying, "Nikkin Kyoiku -Daily disciplinary lesson (lengthy and humiliating re-training sessions for workers "responsible" for delays or overrunning stops and so on) is totally right", "Delay of installing ATS (Automatic Train Stop) was inevitable since its deliberate preparation needed much time" and "Normal drive can easily keep our schedule though you call it overloaded".
Even the members of the Accident Investigation Committee of the LITM, which is also responsible for the Amagasaki accident for its de-regulation policy, was obliged to comment that the insistence of the JR West was a evasion and recommend that the JR West withdraw it.
It goes, however, further. Executive members of the three unions of railway workers, i.e. National Railway Workers Union (Kokuro), Japan Railway Trade Unions Confederation (JR Rengo) and Japan Confederation of Railway Workers Unions (JR Soren), of JR West Company were also called to attend the hearing. Mr. Asano, one of the speakers of the bereaved of the Amagasaki accident, who spoke in the hearing, commented the statement of the union leaders:
"None of the responsible persons of the three concerned unions at the hearing referred to the rail safety problem. Both of labor and management of the JR West are totally rotten."

130 kmph traveling speed planned on Joban Line!

Nothing differs in the JR East Company from the JR West. The East Company is currently planning to run the trains with the traveling speed of 130 kmph in the Joban Line. Such a high speed is unprecedented for local lines in the whole Japan. The reason, according to the company, is to compete with the "Tsukuba express", rapid train running parallel to the Joban Line. We wonder what at all they have learned from the terrible tragedy of the Amagasaki. Exactly the same faulty policy is going to be practiced only after two years of the accident, while their regret on the negligence of rail safety is still fresh in our memory. The Joban Line is not an elevated railroad. There are naturally numerous crossings on the tracks. The JR East Company totally neglects the serious problems that inevitably arise from overloaded travel schedule, which requires high-speed and sudden change of acceleration and slowdown, putting the train drivers under extreme nervous tension.
When we allow the things develop in this way, another Amagasaki accident would inevitably happen. We must act immediately. Let's fight the labor spring offensive 2007 as a struggle for safe drive against capital's rationalization with a demand of enforced drastic safety measures!

DORO-CHIBA (DC): National Railway Motive Power Union of CHIBA
Email: doro-chiba@doro-chiba.org
Web: http://www.doro-chiba.org/

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