Photo/IllutrationThe site of the derailment disaster that occurred 14 years ago on April 25 in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture. The Inori no Mori (Memorial Grove) was newly built near the site. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

OSAKA--West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) plans to preserve all cars of a train that derailed and slammed into an apartment building in 2005, killing 107, for use in safety education for its employees.

According to the company’s draft plan disclosed to The Asahi Shimbun, JR West is considering expanding its employee training facility in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, to keep the seven cars of the train.

However, a senior company official said much more time will be needed before a final decision is reached on whether to use the cars to honor the memory of the victims and to prevent a recurrence.

The official said the decision will be based largely on the feelings of the bereaved family members and survivors of the crash.

JR West plans to hear their opinions at briefing sessions held on Nov. 16 and 17.

The accident occurred on the JR Takarazuka Line in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, in April 2005. The train driver, who was behind schedule, was trying to make up for lost time and hit a curve at high speed, causing the train to jump the tracks and crash into an apartment building.

The driver was among those who died in the disaster, which also left 562 injured.

According to sources, the first to fourth cars were dismantled to rescue the victims, and only the front part of the first car remains intact. The seven cars and their pieces are now kept indoors in Hyogo Prefecture and Osaka city.

JR West heard the opinions of bereaved family members and survivors before it drew up the draft plan. Many urged the preservation of all seven cars, with some saying they will serve as evidence that the victims had existed in this world.

While some of the victims wanted the cars displayed at the site of the accident, others said they would become too upset by seeing the cars when they visit the area to mourn for their loved ones.

A majority of the victims agreed on using the cars for safety training, saying they want JR West employees to “feel” the tragedy of the accident and to use that experience for future operations.

After the accident, JR West came under fire for subjecting its drivers to strict rules on punctuality and forcing tardy drivers to undergo a humiliating “retraining” program.

The company revamped its system and opened the employee safety training facility in Suita in 2007 to pass on lessons from the Amagasaki disaster.

In September last year, the company built Inori no Mori (Memorial Grove) near the site of the crash.

The facility, which includes a cenotaph, retains part of the building that had been hit by the train. Originally nine stories high, the structure now has four stories and serves as a reminder of the day of the disaster.

“The damaged cars are the next big issue (we need to deal with),” said JR West President Tatsuo Kijima, who visited the site of the accident on Oct. 25.

Some people want the train cars displayed to the public to show the impact of the accident, but others say they do not want such objects of tragedy exposed in public.

“We have to take their feelings seriously and carefully consider whether to show the cars to the public,” a senior official of JR West said. “It will take a considerable amount of time before we can reach a conclusion.”

It took Japan Airline Co. 20 years to decide what to do with the wreckage of its jumbo jet that crashed in Gunma Prefecture in 1985, killing 520 people.

In 2006, JAL started putting the rear pressure bulkhead, which is believed to have caused the accident, and other items on public display.

(This article was written by Hiroya Furuta and Tatsuya Chikusa.)