Japanese rail workers forced to crouch in tunnel next to tracks to feel force of bullet trains in safety exercise

Crouching down in a tunnel next to a railway track as a bullet train whizzes past at 186 miles per hour may not sound particularly educational.

One Japanese rail company, however, clearly thinks otherwise, with around 190 members of staff having taken part in the unusual practice as part of their safety training.

JR West, a major rail operator, has defended the exercise as essential in showing staff at first hand how fast the nation’s legendary bullet trains can travel, according to media reports.

Maintenance staff have had to take part in the unusual exercise since the rail operator first introduced it in 2016, a year after an accident occurred during which part of a train’s exterior reportedly fell off.

 “The training aims to teach our maintenance staff the importance of every part of their jobs,” a JR West spokeperson told AFP.

“We pay close attention to safety while doing the training. We will continue this training while ensuring it serves a purpose and is done safely.”

However, the company’s enthusiasm for the exercise has not been shared by all members of staff, with a number of employees reportedly complaining after taking part.

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One employee told the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper: “It was a horrible experience.” Another described taking part in the exercise as similar to a “public flogging”, according to the Mainichi newspaper.

Japan has long been famed for its enviably efficient shinkansen bullet trains, which were first unveiled to the world during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics where they were celebrated as a symbol of the nation’s post-war recovery.

Today, the dolphin-nosed trains run from northernmost Hokkaido to southern Kyushu and are renowned not only for high speeds but also their punctuality and safety, with not a single passenger killed in a crash since they were launched.

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