Thursday, July 7, 2011

Earthquake Warning System Saved Shinkansen Trains

Front view of EMU JR East E5 series at Tokyo Station, the Tohoku Shinkansen

When the 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit the eastern part of Japan on March 11, 2011, a total of 18 super-express trains were running on the Tohoku and the Joetsu Shinkansens. The minimum distance between the earthquake epicenter and the train was only 180km.

Japan, having a lot of earthquakes, has an advanced earthquake warning system on the railways. This system is composed of a network of seismograms and computers. Once a seismogram detects a minor initial tremor of an earthquake, the computer can calculate the epicenter and the magnitude of the earthquake on a real-time basis. Then, this system raises an alarm over the railway lines, where danger is apparent, before full-blown shaking occurs. For your information, the speed of information propagation by electric current and the radio wave is faster than that of seismic wave propagation; therefore, the system can put a brake on the trains automatically, before they are hit by the earthquake. Thanks to the warning system, there was no derailment accident or injured persons on the Tohoku Shinkansen. I really appreciate it that Japanese rail engineers have developed this safety system.

The giant earthquake had caused suspension of the train service for one and a half months; however, on April 29th, the entire route of the Tohoku Shinkansen reopened. It was a long-awaited moment. EMU E5 series, which is the newest train with a maximum speed of 300km/h on the Tohoku Shinkansen, also resumed operation (see the top and the bottom photos).

E5 series… welcome back to the Tohoku Shinkansen.

Side view of EMU JR East E5 series at Tokyo Station, the Tohoku Shinkansen
More information about the Tohoku Shinkansen: