Amagasaki accident's real cause:Privatization & Deregulation
7 May 2005

English index pageEnglish index page
Japanes home pageJapanes Home page
(Union News "Daily DORO CHIBA" No.6072,)(Japanes)


No Fight, No Safety - We should never let the disaster happen again (No.1)


Train derailment and turnover accident in Amagasaki, Fukuchiyama Line, was one of the worst and biggest disaster in Japan's railway history as well as Mikawashima Accident in 1962 (160 dead) and Tsurumi Accident in 1963 (168 dead).

Mass media have finally started to point out various problems behind the fatal disaster in Amagasaki which killed 107 people. But yet, none of them dare to touch the real core of the problems.

Not just that, media have launched smokescreen campaign which is utterly missing the point and rather blaming some of the JR employees who had a private party at the night of the accident.

Why do they? Because, they know that the tragic accident was triggered, inevitably, by the privatization and deregulation, the very basic policy of the government of Japan since Nakasone administration.

The real cause of the fatal accident lies in the criminal policy of Division and Privatization of state-run Japan National Railway. The rotten executive members of the trade unions also should be blamed. They surrendered to the attack and worked as minions of the privatization for their self-protection.

The Amagasaki Accident clearly showed us what happens when trade unions become henchmen of the corporations and the government.


Please see the picture here. This is "President's Direction in 2005" of Osaka branch in JR West Company. And the very first of 5 slogans is (Circled words) "Make Money!" This has been put up on notice boards in work places. Does this come from JR West's "unique managerial nature"? No, we do not think so.

Primary problem lies in railway industry's privatization where the profit comes first. As we have repeatedly pointed out, we can see totally same problems in JR East Company.

In "the New Frontier 21", interim management scheme of the JR East Company, the first of Business Strategy is "Development of Station Renaissance", the second is "Construction of New Business Model with Introduction of New Technology including Information Technology", and "Railway Business" only appears in the third position. Their usage of terminology is "sophisticated" but what they actually say is completely same as that of JR West's.

The management scheme starts with the ideas like: "After the wave of global economical market has come, we live, now, in the society of real hard-boiled competence, the society where the stronger prey upon the weaker which is dominated by the market principal", "transport market is deregulated as well and the competence has become intensive", and it is concluded with the words: "This reform cannot evade difficulty and pain but is the only way to maintain our company and to materialize the happiness of our employees and their families".

What it actually proposes is 10,000-staffs-cut in the coming 5 years, total outsourcing of the track maintenance, electricity work, communication work and coach maintenance (the very basis of technology section of railway transportation) and the maximization of the profit ratio. It agitates "Management to Respect Value of Shareholders".


This has come from none other but the Privatization. Those people, who enforced Division and Privatization of JNR with saying competence principal was great, are now trying to enforce mass privatization including that of postal services. (And we should note that mass media have kept saying the same thing.)

As a consequence, Safety Charter which said "Safety is the number one priority for the transportation business" has been scrapped and replaced by the Management Direction which says "We are aiming to be the Leading Company".

The Division and the Privatization of the state-run Railway has fundamentally changed the characteristic of the railway business itself.


The biggest reason of the accident was tightened diagram of trains and unreasonable speed-up in order to, what they say, win the race against other private railways. The privatization has unleashed competence principal.

In JR East Company, when they insisted excessive speed-up and increase of the number of trains at Sobu Ordinary Line in December 1988, it triggered, just 5 days later, disastrous trains' collision at Higashi-Nakano Station which killed a passenger and the driver of the train. What JR East said at the time was "One-minute shortening of diagram attracts one hundred million yens profit".

In order to enforce the diagram revision, Chiba branch of JR East Company changed a custom: They used to count the time to control diagram in every 15 seconds, but they started to count it in every 10 seconds. They produced direction document which says "When you stop in front of the red signal at rush hour time, as it can mean more transportation jam, you should come up to the signal with the greatest care and should stop after you pass the signal" and this is illegal of course.

This time, at the background of Amagasaki Accident, you can see the same problem there.


Now notoriously known "Nikkin Training" (employment training) is also natural consequence of the Privatization. Workers have been trained under the slogans: "Beat the rival railway companies", "Don't delay even a second", and intensified competence. This kind of abnormal "Training" could be possible only after the Privatization, disorganization of trade unions and destruction of unity among workers.

Not just in JR West, but in JR East as well, workers have repeatedly been disciplined. Drivers have been demoted from driving work or have been under watch while driving by their superiors who are in plain cloth.

Speed-up, tightened diagram, mass cut of staffs, intensified work, cost cut... under those circumstances, only the way to ensure "safe and stable" transportation is to put huge pressure on drivers.

This abuse like rule against workers has started in the process of Division and Privatization when they needed to destroy workers' unity and labour movement in order to enforce mass dismissals (roughly 200,000, a half of the total JNR workers were sacked). The tyrannical reign is going on still now.
Nikkin Training is just a tip of the iceberg.

And again, introducing of "lightweight coaches" which made the disaster worse was aimed at cost-cut and speed-up. This is also a result of Profit Comes First Policy which neglects safety measures.

Furthermore, generation gap between workers who started to work before and after the Privatization (JR did not recruit new workers for several years after the Privatization), lack of succession of necessary professional skills, and production and adoption of unskilled and amateurish new drivers... all these are the consequence of 200,000 mass dismissals, union busting, abnormal treatment against workers (which has continued still now) under the Division and Privatization. These volcanoes like problems have finally started to erupt after 18 years of the Privatization.


What was worse was Deregulation which deteriorated even safety. Report of Transport Technology Council and its Technological Standard Study Section have mentioned about deregulation on railway industry as follows:

- Detailed and Directed Standard of material, specification and planning is replaced by Minimum Capability Standard.
- Social regulation is to meet administration's politics and aim and set as minimum.
- Autonomy and subjective decision of railway business shall be respected.
- Type of administration is changed from Regulating-Beforehand Type to Checking-Afterward Type.
- Works should be left in the hand of Market Principle in maximum level, and participation of the State should be reduced.

Their basic idea, in short, is to leave everything for the market principals. The Direction of Ministry of Transport (the present Ministry of Land Infrastructure and Transport) which used to set details of railway service, construction of structure, maintenance and inspection have all been drastically deteriorated.

Ministry of Land Infrastructure and Transport's Direction has been completely undermined, and railway business can do anything with their discretionary powers.


After that, all the JR Companies have applied less frequent or no maintenance of trains and rail tracks. They changed train service provision.
Some "Absolute Traffic Lights", in front of which all the trains were supposed to stop, have ceased to be "absolute" any more. They have produced numerous politics that neglect safety.

Market Principal means how you can win the competence, how you can hold down cost including personnel ones in order to make bigger profits. On the contrary, if you want to secure the safety, you need vast amount of human and material investment, and safety, itself, cannot produce any profit.
Market Principal and Safety are mutually exclusive just like water and oil.
But they have totally shifted to Market Principal.

Ministry of Land Infrastructure and Transport coined the idea "to respect voluntary and subjective decision of railway business", "to replace Beforehand-Regulation Administration with Afterward-Checking Administration". They have banned all the regulations and left it to the hands of private companies.

The consequence of all this is the tragic disaster in Amagasaki. They say Afterward-Checking Administration, but lost 107 lives cannot be revived whatever way.

(To be continued to No.2)

DORO-CHIBA (DC): National Railway Motive Power Union of CHIBA