'Scary' safety drill by Japanese train company involving bullet trains stopped

A 500-Series Shinkansen in Japan. West Japan Railway has halted its safety training drill involving participants crouching down in a trench between two sets of train tracks while the trains speed by. PHOTO: JAKUB HALUN

Employees had to crouch in tunnels while high-speed trains rushed past to "feel" the strength of the winds generated as part of a Japanese railway company's training drill.

Trainee mechanics from the West Japan Railway had to observe the trains that could whizz by at up to 300kmh, reported the BBC. This unusual training drill has since been halted.

The practice, which has been in place since 2016, follows an incident in 2015 where a metal part fell off a shinkansen, or bullet train, and loose bolts were thought to be the cause, said BBC.

According to BBC, the company wanted to "improve their worker's skills of car inspection" and safety awareness after the accident.

The safety training would involve participants crouching down in a trench around one metre, both deep and wide, between two sets of train tracks as the trains sped by.

Around 240 trainee mechanics had participated in the drills, which lasted up to 20 minutes.

However, many of these employees had concerns about the practice, which they raised to the West Japan Railway Workers Union, said BBC.

One member said: "I was worried that the ballasts (stones and sand on the tracks) could come flying at me and hit me."

Other workers described the drills as "scary" and "just like a public flogging", and "could not understand why such training was conducted".

West Japan Railway Workers Union said it called on the company to stop the programme eight times since last year, reported BBC.

The railway company rebutted the claim that the decision to halt the drill was a result of outside pressure, instead stating that they had found new sites for the training that were "more effective".

The drills will continue with employees observing the trains from outside the tunnel, behind a fence.

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