– Knight Ridder Newspapers

OSAKA, Japan – The driver of the train that derailed on the JR Fukuchiyama Line in April, killing 107 people, was forced to write 19 essays expressing his regret for overshooting a stop line last June.

The driver, Ryujiro Takami, 23, who was killed in the derailment on April 25, underwent the program known as “day shift” immediately after the June incident.

During the program given at West Japan Railway Co.’s Kyobashi train office in Osaka, Takami also was severely reprimanded by three superiors for failing to make up for the 10-second delay.

The police and the Construction and Transport Ministry’s Aircraft and Railway Accidents Investigation Commission will investigate the firm’s re-education program.

According to sources, the office has recorded and kept details of re-education programs for employees, including essays of regret.

It is believed such records have been voluntarily submitted by the office to the police.

The record of Takami’s re-education program was written by his superiors and comprise 10 pages, the sources said.

On June 8, Takami overshot a stop line by 100 meters at Shimokoma Station on the Katamachi Line in Seikacho, Kyoto Prefecture, when he was operating a rapid train bound for Kizu Station from Sasayamaguchi Station.

Due to this mistake, he was suspended from regular duty and ordered by the office head to undergo the program starting the next day.

The program was held at the office from 9 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. every day.

Three instructors, a deputy stationmaster-level official and two subsection chiefs, repeatedly asked him why he had overshot the stop line and what he would do in future to prevent a recurrence. Takami answered that his behavior lacked proper regard for safety and he had not fulfilled his responsibilities as a driver.

Takami also was asked why his train was late by 10 seconds when it arrived at Shimokoma Station.

He answered that a large group of primary school children on a school trip had boarded the train at Miyamaki Station, the station before Shimokoma Station, and had been slow in boarding, causing a delay of more than 10 seconds.

In response, the superiors criticized him for failing to make up for the delay.

In the essays, he simply admitted that he was at fault, saying, “I’ll try to improve my driving.” He did not attempt to defend his actions.

Takami, who became a driver one month before the re-education program was ordered, had his year-end bonus cut.

Takami told friends that as the firm just ordered drivers to keep their schedules, his only option was to speed up if a delay occurred.

“I was ordered to write many essays. If I make a big mistake again, I might be removed from my post,” he said.

JR West has begun re-examining the re-education program since the derailment occurred. But it still maintains that Takami’s reeducation had been conducted properly.

The police are questioning the train office head and other employees on suspicion that Takami’s reckless driving to make up for a 90-second delay resulted in the fatal derailment.

(c) 2005, The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Visit the Daily Yomiuri Online at http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/index-e.htm/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-05-21-05 1702EDT

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