‘Tailor railway to your needs’

Senior Correspondent from Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Dec 11 (bdnews24.com)—A country should consider its ‘current situation’ before developing its railway, a Japanese consultant said on Tuesday as some developing countries ‘cannot decide’ what kind of railway they need to have.

“You (developing countries) really need to carefully see your current situation and select the most suitable one for your country,” said Hideharu Igarashi, General Manager of Japan International Consultants for Transportation Co. Ltd that oversees a major railway company in Japan.

Based on his experience in developing countries, he said some countries tried to adopt latest technologies, ‘though not suitable for them’ and some wanted superior networks than their neighbours.

“But they don’t carefully see their current situation,” he said while briefing a group of journalists from developing countries about the Japan’s railway system.

With more than 27,000-kilometre networks, Japan’s railway system is considered the best in the world, particularly for its high-speed trains that can run as fast as 270km per hour with an annual average delay of less than 10 seconds except catastrophes.

But the delay can be as long as 10 hours in Bangladesh, which is going to implement over $2 billion rail network for mass rapid transit with the help of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Igarashi, who has worked in Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam, said maintenance is a ‘critical’ part in the railway sector to prevent accidents like derailments, a common phenomenon in Bangladesh that frequently disrupts rail services.

“You have to maintain the tracks and cars as well very carefully and on a daily basis.” He said Japan railway uses an L-shaped car guide and railway overturn prevention device in its network to avoid derailments.

“For railway services we have to learn from the past so that similar accident does not recur…We have to focus on an accident very carefully,” he said.

The company was floated in Nov 2011 with 495 million Japanese Yen in paid-up capital from major railway network operators that include East Japan Railway Company Ltd and West Japan Railway Company.

The primary responsibility of the consultant company is to set the standards for the railway companies based on the Japanese rules and regulations.

Japan’s railway has been privatised after a reform in 1987 and divided into six passenger companies by regions – East, West, Central, Hokkaido, Shikoku and Kyushu.

“Our prime goal is to prevent accidents… If accidents occur, people will not use that train,” Igarashi said.

Under the privatisation, a company is responsible for the operations and maintenance of all stations, tracks and rolling stocks under its region. Igarashi termed the distribution of the job ‘unique in the world.’

“Even after massive damage by earthquakes, the companies have to rebuild the network on its own as we have no insurance system as of today,” Igarashi said.

“It increases the efficiency of the railway,” he said, adding that last year the Japan East Railway earned over 2,500 billion Japanese Yen with around 7,500-kilometre network.

The average passenger per day was 17million and the number of trains was 12,732 with 1,689 stations.

Of the total earnings, 70 percent came from the transportation and 30 percent from the non-rail businesses that include renting spaces for shopping centres and offices.

For the convenience of the commuters the railway in 2001, after 16 years of research, introduced ‘Super Urban Intelligent Card’, which is currently used by 35 million people.

“With the cards they can ride on train and also buy commodities from different stores. University students also use them as ID cards,” Igarashi said as he stressed on services for making benefit from the railway sector.

In 2006, they introduced mobile ticketing system where no printed tickets are needed.

Apart from the high-speed trains (Shinkansen), Japan has urban rail, subways, local rail, automated guide-way transit, different type of monorails and latest MAGLEV (magnetic levitation) technology.

Igarashi said the process is on to launch battery-run trains soon.

Source: Bd News24

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