Subway safety: platform doors ホームドア

I wrote about platform doors in my January 17 column in The Japan Times, in response to a question from a reader who questioned whether these new safety barriers on train platforms amount to “typically Japanese paternalistic over-protection.”

Half-height platform doors on Tokyo Metro's Yurakucho Line (photographed at Ikebukuro station)

Lord knows there’s plenty of official mollycoddling in Japan, from the “mind your step” announcements played in an endless loop at the bottom of escalators, to the men in hard hats who bow us around even minor construction. As my friend Fumiko fumes when handled in such a fashion, “What are we, idiot children?”

In that light, I thought it would be interesting to point out that it’s not just Japan that wants to keep people from falling onto the tracks: similar platform doors are in use in at least 44 cities, mostly in Asia and Europe. First, here’s a photo of the platform doors on the new Line 11 in Barcelona, Spain:

And a shot of the Blue Line in Bangkok:

And one more, from London:

A view of Westminster station on the Jubilee Line extension

Meanwhile, back here in Tokyo, JR has installed half-height platform doors at two stations on the Yamanote line (Ebisu and Meguro). The next stations in line for a retrofit are Osaki, Ikebukuro, Otsuka, Sugamo, Komagome, Shinokubo, Mejiro, Takadanobaba and Tamachi.

Newly installed doors at Ebisu Station on the Yamanote Line in Tokyo

What do you think? Read the rationale for platform doors, as summarized in my column. Then leave a comment. Is this a waste of money? Or a sensible investment in passenger safety and reliable service?

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7 Responses to Subway safety: platform doors ホームドア

  1. I have to say I dislike the full-height doors on the Namboku Line — too claustrophobic. I like to feel the movement of the air through the tunnels, rather than be trapped in stale air conditioning.
    The half-height doors are better, though the pause between the time the train stops and the doors actually open is slightly frustrating.
    The worst aspect of these doors, on the Yamanote Line at least, was the private security guards patrolling the platforms as the installation work was being (slowly) done, ticking people off for daring to even touch the walls, let alone lean on them, while waiting for trains.
    Another interesting, thought-provoking and well written column!

  2. Jon Allen says:

    It’s a very interesting topic. if you do a google search on the subject there is fair bit of material out there.
    One link showed that in London , simply having what are termed ‘suicide pits’ ( simply a channel in the middle of the rails that you can escape into, if you fall or get pushed) reduced the mortality rate to 44% compared with 76% for for those without them.

    Click to access gershon_epidemiology%20of%20subway%20fatalities_2008.pdf

  3. Masakazu says:

    Although gate barriers are extremely costly, I think they are highly effective in preventing messy accidents and suicides that disrupt service for hours and inconvenience commuters and other passengers. After the Yurakucho Line as you reported, the Ginza Line will be next and then probably the rest of the Chiyoda Line when its fleet of 3-door car trains are replaced with 4-door ones to match the gate width. The Hibiya Line is out of the question because too many trains of both door versions are in service, all this according to my railway-nut son.

  4. Allan Murphy says:

    I am very much aware of and opposed to Japan’s coddling rules. Yesterday, at the public pool, I had to wear a cap, though i have short hair; had to put tape around my wedding ring in case I injured someone; and a rest period at 5 minutes to the hour was mandatory. Ugh!

    However, platform doors seem reasonable to me, like seat belts in cars. There are three reasons: 1) many platforms are poorly designed and are too narrow for peak commuting times; 2) alcohol is available here 24/7 and drunkenness is tolerated. (About 5 years ago, an inebriated salaryman fell off the platform at Ochanomizu station. Two passengers jumped down to the tracks to assist him. All three were killed by the next train. To show that they had a heart, the kiosks at the station stopped selling alcohol – for 6 months because they were losing a significant amount of money) and 3) I didn’t realize this until our kids came along, but platform barriers give parents great peace of mind.

  5. Shinji says:

    Definitely this is done for the benefit and safety of the passengers. We do not have the platform doors in train platforms here in the Philippines, but I think it would be nice to have them. The only “problem” I see, somehow, is the feeling of being “restricted”.

  6. Diane mason says:

    Hi here in Australia we don’t have any safety measures at all in New South Wales the morons running the rail network don’t even have any policies or procedures in place for dealing with persons on platforms either intoxicated or asleep. My son Lee Mason was left asleep on a platform seat he awoke and fell onto the platform got up and fell again this time onto the tracks. There was a station manager on duty and 24/7 CCTV but no one saw him the last commuter train of that night struck him but did not kill him no one saw him no one looked for him although the useless station manager on duty knew he was there because he left him there! Lee was struggling to get back up on the platform for about 20 minutes until a freight train came through the station and killed him. Several trains later and still no one saw him a passerby on the street adjacent found him too late our beautiful son gone because of sheer negligence no barriers no track intrusion technology no protocols no safety whatsoever dark ages third world standards, a simple physical barrier is the difference between our son Lee being here, he left behind three children, Glen Mason.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. I am looking at this as an emergency management intern pooling grant proposal ideas here in San Francisco and your very persuasive argument for safety barriers has just added this to our list. I hope that the efforts being made to help prevent this happening to others in some small way ease your pain.

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