How long does it take to handle a suicide on Japanese railways, and what should we do?

That is a question I had never asked myself until last month. The story is that I went out with my friends and came home a little late. Then, just in time to set foot on the train, an urgent message was received: Because 人身事故 – “Jinshin jiko”, the train will temporarily not depart.

“Jinshin jiko” is a term used to describe an accident where a person is hit by a train and dies by accident or suicide.

Over a thousand people die each year from train-related suicides in Japan. This can also be emotionally distressing for train operators and witnesses.

In the case of self-handling

If there is no damage, it can be operated after about 15 minutes of downtime.

In the case of calling the ambulance and the police

Once the police arrive, there will be an on-site inspection, regardless of whether the accident is fatal or injured, so there will be a waiting period.
Re-running before the arrival of the police is not prohibited, depending on the situation. But there are many different reasons, so most trains will wait for the police to come to handle it.

The processing is as follows:

  • When an accident occurs, the first thing to do is rescue work. The train driver will immediately report the current situation and wait for instructions.
  • All trains in the vicinity sharing the same track will be notified to stop.
  • The person in charge of the operation at that time and the nearest station manager will rush to the site. It takes more time in the suburbs than in the inner city.
  • In the meantime, the train driver will perform an initial inspection of the whole train. Confirm if any passengers were injured in the collision. Headquarters will also immediately contact the fire department, paramedics, and police departments and issue additional instructions for trains and stations affected by accidents.
  • The railway company also summoned technical experts to do a more thorough inspection.

Depending on the accident, the time can be about 1 hour to 1.5 hours. In some cases, it may take additional time to complete the above processes. In addition, if the train is damaged or determined to be unable to continue, it will take extra time to move the train to the evacuation area.

What actions do we recommend?

The first thing you do when encountering a suicide on the railways is to check how long ago the accident happened.

  • If it was more than 1 hour before, you could wait.
  • If it just happened, then I recommend you consider looking for another solution: Try to check if there is another line that can go home? Is it possible to take a detour by bus or transfer to another station to easily change lines? You can consider a taxi if you are not worried about money or the distance is not too far.

In my situation, since it was the final train of the day, I had no choice but to wait, and processing typically takes longer during the night. This resulted in a waiting time of two hours until the train resumed operation.