8:06 am - Sunday March 18, 2018

Shinkansen: Safe, reliable and cost-effective Japanese technology


MO,12/3/2018, The Japanese Shinkansen is the first high-speed rail system which started its commercial operation in 1964 between Tokyo and Osaka. It currently has a network spanning over 2,700 kilometres in Japan. What makes this system ideal for the upcoming Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail Project? The system has several criteria which include safety, reliability and sustainability in its operation. It has a stellar reputation of zero fatalities recorded throughout 53 years of operation in Japan.

The Shinkansen operates based on the “Crash Avoidance” principle, which dictates a design eliminating any possibility of a crash occurring. The “Crash Avoidance” principle comprises of a dedicated high-speed rail track free of any level crossings and the Automatic Train Control (ATC) system which reliably safeguards against crashes by preventing the train from running at excessive speeds.

In addition, the Shinkansen optimally integrates the tangible aspects of civil engineering structures, track, electrical facilities, signal and communication equipment with the intangible aspects of operation control, maintenance, training and business management to realise safe and efficient operation. The Shinkansen system is also designed to withstand natural disasters and abnormal weather conditions.

For example, the Shinkansen system employs an earthquake rapid alarm system. In Japan, the Japan Meteorological Agency will send out emergency earthquake warnings to stop the train immediately. It also has in place the deviation prevention measures to prevent train cars from deviating off the track and colliding with incoming trains or structures in the event that a train does derail.

In the tropical country like Malaysia, where rain is frequent, the control centre will constantly monitor data from rain gauges installed along the lines to enforce speed restrictions when the rain level exceeds a predetermined threshold. At locations where the wind is concentrated and windblasts are anticipated to occur such as at mountain ravines and bridges, anemometers will be installed to enforce operations suspension when wind speeds exceed a certain level.

Moreover, the train system is very reliable. It has recorded less than one minute average delay time per trip, therefore, ensuring punctuality for busy passengers. Another pride of the Shinkansen system is its impressive total life-cycle cost savings which were achieved by reducing operating expenses (opex) and capital expenditure (capex). The opex consists of costs related to transportation and maintenance costs for rolling stocks and ground equipment while the capex is based on depreciation costs of rolling stocks and ground equipment.

Under the Shinkansen system, the opex is being reduced by providing efficient transportation services. It utilises rolling stocks and monitoring condition of electrical equipment and tracks on an inspection train. Moreover, Shinkansen ensures an intensive and efficient maintenance by dividing maintenance time and operation time completely. As the system deploys the principle of crash avoidance, which prevents the train from accidents, enabling the weight of the rolling stock to be reduced.

This leads to less track damage and maintenance costs for tracks and ground structures. Based on the same principle, the usage of rolling stock owned is maximised. This increases the number of trains arriving and departing a platform by shuttling trains efficiently, giving rise to high-frequency and on-time train operation. In return, it helps in minimising the investment in rolling stocks, platforms, tracks and signalling systems.

That contributes to controlling not only depreciation costs but also the maintenance costs for the future. As the Shinkansen runs on a light car body with low running resistance and highly efficient train control system, it is very sustainable and is also competitive in energy consumption. With Japanese technology being adopted by any host country, this will also spur the growth of human resource development and facilitate technology transfer.

Local companies and local partners are integral in realising smooth and reliable operations from the inception of the high speed rail project. For example, in Taiwan, where the Shinkansen system is utilised, Taiwanese companies provided slab tracks for the Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR). In terms of human resource development, a large number of railway experts from Japan were dispatched to Taiwan for the purpose of training and sharing of knowledge to the employees of Taiwan HSR.

In addition, 170 employees of the Taiwan HSR visited Japan to receive intensive training. On top of that, the openness of the Shinkansen system leads to global acceptance as it is highly adaptable to any user countries. Under fair and transparent rules, the system made it possible to adopt foreign products for procurement. In Japan, 80 per cent of its JR East Shinkansen adopts German-made brakes from Knorr-Bremse. Another example is Taiwan’s High Speed Rail which had procured various components such as point machine from Germany, train radio system from the United States and pole for trolley wire from Switzerland.

In Taiwan, the system is used for a network of 345 km from Taipei to Zuoying since 2007. In 2009 in the United Kingdom Class 395 trains using the Shinkansen train technology started operations in HS1’s UK domestic service, namely the CTRL DS (Channel Tunnel Rail Link- Domestic Service) spanning 109 km from London St Pancras to Dover. There were no fatalities recorded in both countries throughout the operation.

Besides that, Japanese slab tracks have universal applicability and are not only specific to the Shinkansen system. User countries can choose any type of train cars even with heavier body weights as it could be accommodated by the Japanese slab tracks. The Shinkansen system is a proven, time-tested and effective choice, and its stellar and spotless record speaks volumes for its safety.


Filed in: Luar Negara, Teknologi dan Media Sosial, Topik Pilihan

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