How Japanese High-Speed Trains Handle Earthquakes

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Japan is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. We all know that the quake in March 2011 devastated the coast of the Tohoku area. But the nation’s savvy disaster preparedness likely saved thousands of lives.Imagine being on a Japanese high-speed train when an earthquake hits. This is a scenario that the Tokaido Shinkansen railway team has been planning for, for years.

image/text credit: Smithsonian Channel 

Japan’s Shinkansen is a high-speed legend, a 177 MPH bullet train that has powered the country’s economy and thrilled fans for over half a century. Keeping it fast, efficient, and safe is a top priority, but operating through rough terrain and bad weather across one of the most earthquake-prone places on Earth is a major challenge.

Various Earthquake-resistance systems have been introduced. One is a system to immediately stop and protect the train when an earthquake happens. This system has two detection systems — (1) a detection system utilizing seismographs set in every substation along the Shinkansen line, and (2) a detection system utilizing seismographs set along the coastline at regular intervals.

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The Japanese National Railways Corporation (the predecessor of the present JR) and West Japan Railway Company had underestimated the risk of earthquake in the Sanyo Shinkansen area, and regarded the setting up the system using the coastline seismographs as quite enough for the Shinkansen route with many tunnels.

VIASmithsonian Channel
SOURCEshinsaiken
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