Since the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan last week, there have been rumours of a number of trains, including a bullet train, having gone missing and / or swept out to sea. The trouble is, no-one seems able to substantiate the stories. So were a bunch of Japanese trains dramatically swept away, carrying passengers to certain death, or is this just some dramatic gossip that has festered in the media?
The East Japan Railway Company (EJRC) has denied losing any passengers. The company says that a number of trains were swept from the tracks by the tsunami, but that passengers and crews had already been evacuated. You would expect the EJRC to know the score by now, more than a week after the disaster. Even allowing for Japan’s legendary levels of official bureaucracy, would they and could they hush up such an incident? The Shinkansen bullet trains are the pride of Japan, but could hundreds of passengers have died in one without anyone noticing?
The earthquake certainly could have derailed trains, and the tsunami certainly could have washed them away. But surely they would have gone inland, not out to sea? And surely some kind of official recognition would have been available by now. The EJRC says that none of its bullet trains were affected by the disaster. Assuming that they’re telling the truth, it would seem that the mystery of Japan’s missing bullet train is a case of gossip getting out of control. Unless or until there’s some official news from someone in Japan, I think we have to assume that Japan’s trains – very luckily – escaped more or less unscathed.