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Hitachi High-Technologies GLOBAL

Inspection Technology for the Shinkansen Services

The history of high-speed rail transport in Japan begins on October 1, 1964. That day saw the launch of the Tokaido Shinkansen, which had a top speed of 210 km/h and covered the distance between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka in four hours. The Sanyo, Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen were established after that, and the shinkansen network in Japan has expanded to eight lines. Nowadays, on average more than 900,000 passengers travel on the shinkansen per day, and more than 600 shinkansens arrive and depart from Tokyo Station daily. It is a remarkable fact that, in its 49 years of business so far, there have been no passenger fatalities or injuries due to derailments or collisions that could be attributed to the railway company. What lies behind this is the existence of "inspection shinkansens" that support the safety of shinkansen services.

"East-i" Inspection Technology

The E926, familiarly known by its nickname of "East-i."<br>
[Courtesy of JR East]

The E926, familiarly known by its nickname of "East-i."
[Courtesy of JR East]

"East-i", the Electric and Track Inspection Train that Supports the Safety of Shinkansen Services

Katsuya Kuwabara<br>
Manager, Shinkansen Transport Dept.,<br>
Facility and Equipment Div.,<br>
East Japan Railway Company
Katsuya Kuwabara
Manager, Shinkansen Transport Dept.,
Facility and Equipment Div.,
East Japan Railway Company

"The shinkansen line managed by our company runs a daily service of 327 * 16-car high-speed trains with a maximum gross weight of more than 1,000 tons, including the Tohoku Shinkansen "Hayabusa" and "Hayate" which reach the highest operating speed in Japan of 320 km/h. Obviously rails will be warped and displaced by their weight and impact. If this minute displacement increases in size, it causes a subtle change in the comfort of the ride and, if it is not dealt with, it starts to affect the safe running of the trains. That is why we regularly run the "East-i" and check the rails and contact lines." Katsuya Kuwabara of the East Japan Railway Company (JR East) was kind enough to speak to us about the test train.

The "East-i" is the electric and track inspection train for shinkansen in use on the JR East shinkansen network. In order that the shinkansen may operate safely, the rails and contact lines are generally inspected once every ten days on the standard shinkansen gauge Tohoku, Joetsu and Nagano Shinkansen lines, and once every three months on the "mini shinkansen" lines of the Yamagata and Akita Shinkansen, which operate on shinkansen track that connects directly with traditional railway track. (See Fig. I)

A trolley wire (contact line) abrasion detector<br>that uses laser beams<br>
[Courtesy of JR East]
A trolley wire (contact line) abrasion detector
that uses laser beams
[Courtesy of JR East]

The standard Tohoku, Joetsu and Nagano Shinkansen route is Sendai ─ Tokyo ─ Niigata ─ Omiya ─ Nagano on Day 1, Nagano ─ Tokyo ─ Sendai on Day 2, and Sendai ─ Shin-Aomori ─ Sendai on Day 3. Its schedule interweaves three test patterns: a high-speed type that only stops at the main stations, one that stops at each station, and one that falls between those two types. This is because it is necessary to inspect all the rails on the through lines and sidings as well as the main lines. The respective routes for the Yamagata and Akita Shinkansen are Sendai ─ Akita ─ Sendai, and Omiya ─ Shinjo ─ Omiya.

It is also vital to check the contact lines. They are constantly being pushed upwards by the pantograph and their surface gradually becomes worn and scratched. (See Fig. II) If this becomes excessive, there is the danger of disconnection. In addition, only a particular part of the pantograph, the part that the contact line touches, gets worn away. An ingenious trick is therefore used when installing the contact line whereby it is strung to zigzag from left to right at each telegraph pole. Checking that this deviation is not excessive is another point covered by the contact line inspection.

Regular trains in the revised timetable of March 16, 2013

Fig. I<br>
The JR East shinkansen network
Fig. I
The JR East shinkansen network

Fig. II<br>
Aerial wiring (contact line) inspection measurements
Fig. II
Aerial wiring (contact line) inspection measurements

Inspecting for Miniscule Warping and Wear at 275 km/h

Osamu Ishiwata<br>
General Manager,<br>
Social Infrastructure Division,<br>
Hitachi High-Tech Fine Systems Corporation
Osamu Ishiwata
General Manager,
Social Infrastructure Division,
Hitachi High-Tech Fine Systems Corporation

The important point to note is that the "East-i" carries out "dynamic management" of rails and contact lines. "Dynamic management" means that the "East-i" ascertains the state of the rails and contact lines while moving at the operating speed of a shinkansen. In fact, displacement of the joints between rails and of the rails themselves occurs during the day and at night. While it is certainly worth checking the condition of the rails and contact lines during the night after the last train service has finished, the safety that JR East wants to guarantee is the safety of trains in operation carrying passengers. That is why the "East-i" operates in slots within the railway timetable to inspect the rails and contact lines.

The core technology essential to this "dynamic management" is contactless sensing technology employing laser beams. In the development of inspection equipment employing this technology, it is Hitachi High-Tech Fine Systems Corporation (HFS), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hitachi High-Technologies Corporation, that makes it possible to perform real-time inspections of track (rails) and aerial wiring (contact lines) at the operating speed of a shinkansen, namely 275 km/h. HFS instigated a huge leap forward in the dynamic management of track and aerial wiring while moving at high speeds by carrying out technological development in tandem with the Railway Technical Research Institute and JR companies, and establishing contactless sensing technology.

The marvelous thing about this technology is the precision of its measurements. From a carriage traveling at 275 km/h, it can detect 0.3 mm of warping in rails and 0.2 mm of wear in contact lines, without coming into contact with them. Moreover, amazingly enough it is not hindered by carriage vibration, noise or electromagnetic waves, and can take stable measurements even under such harsh conditions as bad weather.

Osamu Ishiwata from HFS added, "The know-how we have accumulated over many years is packed into the technology to take stable measurements of the distance between a point a certain height above the rail head and the sensor, even in an environment where acceleration dozens of times that of gravitational acceleration is generated, and where the wind is stronger than a major typhoon." (See Fig III) With regard to the data output, he also told us, "The raw data stored in the inspection equipment is of no use just as it is. Our proprietary technology is also leveraged in the software that, based on algorithms, judges and sifts the raw data to process it into the data required by the customer."

Fig. III<br>
The light-section method optical rail displacement detector and its<br>measurement principles
Fig. III
The light-section method optical rail displacement detector and its
measurement principles

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The Partnership between the Hitachi Group and JR Companies

The new E7 series for the Hokuriku Shinkansen which will open the line between Nagano and Kanazawa in Spring 2015<br>
[Courtesy of JR East]

The new E7 series for the Hokuriku Shinkansen which will open the line between Nagano and Kanazawa in Spring 2015
[Courtesy of JR East]

The Hitachi Group Has Been Contributing to the Evolution of the Japanese Railways System over the Past 90 Years

The birth of the ED15, Japan's first<br>domestically manufactured large-scale electric locomotive<br>
[Courtesy of Hitachi, Ltd.]
The birth of the ED15, Japan's first
domestically manufactured large-scale electric locomotive
[Courtesy of Hitachi, Ltd.]

A completed Series 0 shinkansen being<br>shipped from the Kasado Factory wharf roughly 50 years ago<br>
[Courtesy of Hitachi, Ltd.]
A completed Series 0 shinkansen being
shipped from the Kasado Factory wharf roughly 50 years ago
[Courtesy of Hitachi, Ltd.]

The Hitachi Group has a long-standing connection with the Japanese railway system that stretches back to the 1920s. Not only was the 8620 steam locomotive manufactured by Hitachi, Ltd. (Hitachi) at its Kasado Factory (Yamaguchi Prefecture), but in 1924 Hitachi developed the ED15, the first large-scale electric locomotive manufactured in Japan. In accordance with the plan to electrify the Tokaido Main Line being promoted by the Ministry of Railways of the day, a total of three ED15 locomotives were supplied.

Rolling stock production was quickly restarted after the war, and the DF90 diesel-electric locomotive and the air-conditioned passenger carriages for the limited express sleeper train known as Asakaze, which became a pioneer in railway comfort, were manufactured in quick succession. Hitachi also developed and operated Japan's first online seat reservation system, the MARS-1. It has supported upgrades to the seat reservation system as far as the MARS-501, the system currently in operation.

Hitachi was also involved from the initial development stage in the project for the Tokaido Shinkansen, launched to coincide with the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It was responsible for the manufacturing of such equipment as rolling stock, main controllers and ATC systems, and by 1970 it had supplied Japan National Railways (JNR) with 212 Series 0 shinkansens. In 1971 it supplied the COMTRAC shinkansen traffic control system. Computer control laid the foundations for the high-density shinkansen timetables and high-speed mass transportation.

Hitachi later supplied the COSMOS integrated shinkansen system for JR East's Tohoku, Joetsu, Nagano, Yamagata and Akita Shinkansen lines. COSMOS provides integrated control of overall operations, including transportation schedules like train timetables, railway traffic control and management of maintenance work. In addition, Hitachi has provided support on both the hardware and software fronts for Japanese rail transport, including the ATOS railway traffic control system for the Tokyo metropolitan area which supports its super high-density timetables.

Daisuke Sakuta from Hitachi Rail Systems Company told us that this lengthy track record "has cemented the firm partnership between the Hitachi Group and JR companies," even after the division and privatization of JNR. "I think that there is no other system that can boast such precision at such high speeds as the track and aerial wiring inspection system installed in the "East-i." On top of which, the measuring technology which started out for use at a top speed of 210 km/h is now used at 270 km/h. It is our mission to continue our ceaseless technological innovation like this to match the evolution of the shinkansen."

Daisuke Sakuta<br>
Senior Engineer,<br>
Transport Management Systems & Solution Dept.,<br>
Transport Mamagement & Control Systems Div.<br>
Hitachi, Ltd. Rail Systems Company
Daisuke Sakuta
Senior Engineer,
Transport Management Systems & Solution Dept.,
Transport Mamagement & Control Systems Div.
Hitachi, Ltd. Rail Systems Company

Better Safety through Track Monitoring on Conventional Lines

Better Safety through Track Monitoring on Conventional Lines

Inside the "East-i"<br>
[Courtesy of JR East]
Inside the "East-i"
[Courtesy of JR East]

JR East is now installing a monitoring system to inspect track conditions underneath trains in operation on the Keihin-Tohoku Line running through the Tokyo metropolitan area, and carrying out running tests to accurately measure the state of the tracks. The use of trains in operation is intended to optimize track inspection work with the aim of further boosting safety via inspection of the measurement data. Another aim is to check the durability of equipment like laser sensors.

Mr. Kuwabara told us, "I intend to apply the results verified on conventional lines to the shinkansen lines. This is because the acquisition of high frequency, high density data via real-time inspection will of course lead to more adequate safety control in high-speed rail transportation." JR East intends to collaborate even more closely with the Hitachi Group as it focuses on safe shinkansen operations.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ishiwata of HFS, who considers it their mission to guarantee the safety and security of shinkansen operations, told us, "I want to tackle new technological development that does not simply respond to the customer's requests but also predicts and anticipates the data that the customer will need." He told us that, for the present, he is "aiming to establish track and aerial wiring inspection technology for 320 km/h, the top speed of the E5 and E6 series trains," and at the same time "to develop more compact inspection equipment and improve its accuracy" and "also work on cutting maintenance costs." It has now been more than ten years since the "East-i" came into use in October 2002. This fiscal year they have therefore started to replace superannuated measuring apparatus installed in the "East-i."

The Tohoku Shinkansen E5 series (left) and the Akita Shinkansen new model E6 series (right), which boast the highest operating speed in Japan at 320 km/h.
The Tohoku Shinkansen E5 series (left) and the Akita Shinkansen new model E6 series (right), which boast the highest operating speed in Japan at 320 km/h.

The Globalization of Railway Technology

Ashford Depot, UK<br>
[Courtesy of Hitachi, Ltd.]

Ashford Depot, UK
[Courtesy of Hitachi, Ltd.]

The Shinkansen Is a Product of Global Renown

The new trains are scheduled to go into operation on lines linking London and other major cities in 2017. They will have a top speed of 200 km/h <br>
[Courtesy of Hitachi, Ltd.
The new trains are scheduled to go into operation on lines linking London and other major cities in 2017. They will have a top speed of 200 km/h
[Courtesy of Hitachi, Ltd.]

The Kasado Division rolling stock manufacturing shop floor<br>
[Courtesy of Hitachi, Ltd.]
The Kasado Division rolling stock manufacturing shop floor
[Courtesy of Hitachi, Ltd.]

The shinkansen epitomizes Japan's high-speed railway, and it may surely be said to be one of the world's leading railway systems in terms of punctuality, safety, comfort and convenience. Hitachi has been supporting those shinkansen operations, and in 2005 it received an order from the British Department for Transport for 174 trains (Class 395) for the new high-speed line connecting London and the Channel Tunnel. At the same time, Hitachi was also asked to provide maintenance services. This is because in the UK the manufacturer is also responsible for the maintenance of rolling stock. However, Hitachi did not possess that know-how so it concluded a consulting contract with JR East and its group companies making them its partners in the maintenance business, and established a maintenance depot near Ashford International station.

Mr. Kuwabara of JR East offered the following analysis of that collaboration: "The total business package produced by the collaboration of Japanese companies probably had tremendous appeal overseas." In fact, Hitachi received a new order from the British government for trains for the UK Intercity Express Programme (IEP); 596 trains in 2012 and an extra 270 in July 2013, making a total of 866.

This outcome makes manifest how the expectations of the British railway authorities were fully met, not only in terms of the quality of the trains but also the way in which Hitachi, along with its partners, prioritized safety in the UK too and amply displayed the expertise it has developed with regard to the safe operation of the shinkansen.

Based upon this business, Mr. Kuwabara had this to say about his vision for the future: "JR East will also boost our initiatives aimed at the globalization of the railway business, for example by expanding our overseas bases, and making efforts to organize exchanges and training for human resources in the equipment divisions, such as work, study or secondment overseas. Eventually I want us to move aggressively into the overseas railway market with shinkansen rolling stock, traffic control and maintenance offered as a single solution. At that time, I would like to work with the Hitachi Group to improve service quality and reduce costs, with safe operations as the main prerequisite."

Safety for the World's Railway Infrastructure via Track and Aerial Wiring Inspection Technology

A towed track inspection car
A towed track inspection car

HFS likewise wants to accelerate its globalization. However, since its product support is inspection technology that does contactless sensing of track and aerial wiring, and its main line was devices, its market had been limited by the extent to which those devices were installed in the "East-i" and the comprehensive inspection trains of other JR companies, or in commercial rolling stock. Mr. Ishiwata told us, "The ideal would probably be for them to be marketed as part of Hitachi high-speed train or JR East shinkansen package."

However, the recent addition to its line-up of single-carriage self-propelled track inspection trains and towed track inspection systems has made it possible for HFS to approach customers other than JR. It intends to step up its sales promotion in the domestic market, targeting private railways, subways and small private railroad companies.

At the same time it is also focusing on opening up sales channels in the global railway market. For example, it is now working toward getting orders for inspection trains for a subway project in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam that Hitachi has successfully won orders for. With this as the start, the plan is to open up new business in the ASEAN market.

Mr. Ishiwata told us, "Our work is one which affects people's lives. Whether the measured data is accurate and whether it is appropriately deciphered. We feel a tightening in the chest when we hear the word 'derailment' on the news. That is the kind of pressure under which we work. But our work helps to ensure safety and security. We are highly motivated when we tackle our tasks since it's our job to provide safety for railway infrastructure throughout the world."

This content originally appeared in the Nikkei Shimbun's digital advertisement feature, Shakai wo yutaka ni suru hai tekku soryushon, published between June 2012 and March 2015, and is reproduced with permission.