Report: California bullet train system should learn from Japanese
May 10, 2016
• Mineta Transportation Institute says detailed training critical
• Should study Japan’s successful earthquake early warning system
As California builds its high-speed passenger train system, already under construction in the Fresno area of the Central Valley, valuable lessons about its ability to withstand earthquakes could be easily adapted from Japan’s successes with its early earthquake warning systems, says a new report from the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University.
This was most recently demonstrated during the series of violent quakes that shook Japan in mid-April, the report says.
Japan Rail developed systems to mitigate the damage to its facilities and personnel, including an early earthquake warning system, retrofitting existing facilities for seismic safety, developing more seismically resistant designs for new facilities, and holding earthquake response training and exercises for company staff and passengers.
“These systems demonstrated their value in the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 and have been further developed based on that experience,” says Frances Edward, one of Mineta’s principal investigators. “Researchers in California are developing an [early earthquake warning] system for the state, and the private sector has a few seismic sensors in place. These technologies could contribute to the safety of the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s developing system, which could emulate Japan’s best practices.”
The Japanese system stops the train, prompting a response from passengers and staff. Detailed staff training in Japan was largely responsible for the subsequent lifesaving activities that moved passengers and staff out of harm’s way, the report says. There were no passenger or crew deaths on any JR East trains, including the bullet trains, during the 2011 triple disaster.
Scientist and specialist for the seismic detection “P Wave Sensor” system, Shunta Noda, who helped develop the early earthquake warning system for the high-speed rail in Kyushu, is part of Japan's Railway Technical Research Institute. He and his team are currently working in collaboration with the USGS in Menlo Park to expedite the development of this innovative new earthquake early warning technology for California. Noda contributed information for MTI’s report and is helping to develop the California earthquake early warning technology.
The MTI report explains the physics of seismic events before delving into the evolution of warning systems. It also describes the extensive training that JR East provides for its employees so they can assist during a disaster.