Train troubles could derail long-term strategy

posted on December 3, 2015

Malfunctions plaguing JR East's much-awaited new train, touted as the embodiment of its technological prowess, cast doubt on the railway operator's long-term growth strategy and overseas ambitions.

"The troubles on the first day of service inconvenienced and worried many customers, and we once again give our sincerest apologies," President Tetsuro Tomita told a news conference Wednesday. Three stations along the Yamanote Line were affected by the glitches that forced the E235 series to suspend service on the first day. Some of the causes have yet to be determined as investigations continue.

For a new train model to suffer major malfunctions on the first day is "pretty much unprecedented," according to a JR East official. Tomita declined to say when the services will resume, noting only that the train will return only if a reliable service can be guaranteed.

The E235 showcases a host of technological innovations. While running, the train analyzes data collected via image sensors to detect flaws in the rails. Screens in overhead compartments and doors display video commercials. An updated system automatically brakes and accelerates based on speed and location, while a novel communications network called Interos relays information 10 times as fast.

The E235 had run over some 10,000km in trials since mid-April. But full-capacity conditions were tested only in simulations. For field testing, JR East used weights reproducing a boarding rate of 40% capacity. The company said that the boarding rate at the start of Monday's maiden run exceeded 90% and that Interos, the so-called train brain, did not work as expected.

source by nikkei
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