Photo/IllutrationThe Asahi Shimbun

The fastest emergency brake system yet for high-speed Shinkansen vulnerable to derailment by massive earthquakes will be introduced by Japan Railway group companies from Nov. 1.

The new system, which uses sea-bed seismometers to detect mega-quakes under the seafloor such as a long-expected and much-feared Nankai Trough earthquake, will bring bullet trains to a halt up to 30 seconds earlier than now.

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East), Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) and West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) announced the system’s introduction on Oct. 30.

The three companies agreed to share data collected by about 200 sea-bed seismometers, installed by the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience off Japan’s eastern coast from Hokkaido to Shikoku, to detect earthquakes in the ocean area as early as possible and stop Shinkansen before strong tremors reach them.

JR companies have previously used seismometers installed in areas far from train tracks, as well as an early warning system, but they have been limited to data collected on land.

The new system can stop JR East’s Shinkansen rolling stocks up to 20 seconds earlier than the current one, while it can halt vehicles belonging to JR Tokai 30 seconds earlier, and those belonging to JR West 10 seconds earlier, according to the companies.

JR East will start operating the new earthquake detection system from Nov. 1 on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line from Tokyo to areas around Fukushima Prefecture, and the Joetsu Shinkansen Line from Tokyo to areas around Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture.

JR Tokai and JR West are expected to launch similar systems from around spring 2019.