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JR East's new train to return on Yamanote loop in Tokyo

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JR East's Yamanote Line covers central Tokyo.   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- East Japan Railway will return a new train equipped with a cutting-edge control system to service for the Yamanote line in central Tokyo after a botched debut late last year.

     The company, also known as JR East, has said that an E235 train will resume operations at 3:18 p.m. Monday, making seven laps that day. If no problems are found, JR East plans to gradually switch all Yamanote Line trains to the new cars, with the transition completing as early as 2020.

     Yamanote loop trains have 11 cars each, and there are 51 of the current E231 trains, meaning the switch will require a total of 561 E235 models.

     Related investment, based on one car costing just over 100 million yen ($876,500), is estimated at tens of billions of yen, though the exact amount will depend on whether the cars can be mass-produced.

     The E235 cars debuted in November but the company suspended their operation on the first night due to malfunctions involving the Interos control system, which automatically applies the brakes or accelerates based on information such as train location. Sensors attached to the car are designed to detect issues on the rails and poles when the train is in service.

     The problems included the train failing stop at a designated spot. The company has fixed the Interos system and conducted test drives totaling around 3,400km since the end of December. 

     JR East had curbed hiring around 1987 when it was privatized. As a result, employees in their 40s who can bridge the older and younger generations now account for only 10% of staff. The company is using information technology to make up the shortfall as veterans retire.

(Nikkei)

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