A number of commuters suffered head wounds and serious injuries after the automated train travelled in the wrong direction.

A driverless train operated by Yokohama Seaside Line Co. reversed by accident last night, injuring approximately 20 passengers on board.

The accident occurred at Yokohama’s Shin-Sugita Station at 8:15 p.m., when the five-car train departed the terminus for Namiki Chuo Station on the Kanazawa Seaside Line in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Reports say the train suddenly stopped after leaving the station and then started reversing, travelling approximately 25 metres (82 feet) in the wrong direction until it hit a bumping post.

▼ This image shows the train after it hit the post.

The impact injured approximately 20 of the 30 passengers who were on board at the time, with some suffering serious but non-life threatening wounds after they were thrown out of seats and hit their heads against handrails.

Emergency services arrived at the scene within minutes, treating people at the station and transporting 15 of the injured to hospital. Six of those receiving hospital treatment were said to have serious injuries, including bone fractures.

The company immediately stopped all trains from running on the line, with no word on when services will be resumed as safety checks continue. The national Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the incident.

▼ Shin-Sugita Station remains closed until further notice, with bus services being made available for passengers.

At a press conference held just after midnight, Yokohama Seaside Line Co. officials said the train was travelling at approximately six kilometres (3.7 miles) an hour when it came into contact with the buffer post. A visual check of the train on 30 May showed no abnormalities.

Company President Akihiko Mikami believes the incident is likely to have occurred due to a glitch in the operating system. The company is working to determine the exact cause of the accident, and has expressed their apologies to those who were injured.

The Kanazawa Seaside Line is an 11-kilometre long automated guideway transit line that runs between Shin-Sugita and Kanazawa Hakkei StationThe driverless trains and their speed are operated by an automatic train operation system (ATO), while the brakes are operated by an automatic train control (ATC) system. Staff monitor the operations from the headquarters at the Kanazawa Hakkei Station terminus, and while three people were monitoring the train at the time of the accident, none of them were able to notice the train reverse until the emergency stop was activated by the collision.

The company says this is the first incident of its kind to occur on the line since it first opened in 1989. However, with other rail operators using ATO, including East Japan Railway, which began trialling driverless trains on Tokyo’s Yamanote loop line in December, the Ministry of Land Infrastructure Transport and Tourism says it is taking the matter seriously to ensure the safety of passengers and prevent an event like this from happening again. 

Sources: Mainichi Shimbun, Yomiuri Shimbun, Asahi
Featured image: Flickr/: : Ys [waiz] : :
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