9.0 Earthquake Not Enough to Derail Japan's High Speed Trains


Photo: GanMed64, Flickr, (CC by 2.0)

To say that the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that rocked Japan last week was devastating is an understatement. It wiped entire cities off the map, left a staggering death toll in its wake (though one that would have been much higher were it not for Japan's strong building laws), and sparked the worst nuclear crisis in decades. But there are two things that even a 9.0 earthquake couldn't take down: Well-made offshore wind turbines, and Japan's high speed rail infrastructure. Mat already looked at the phenomenal durability of Japan's offshore wind farms -- which, after the nuclear reactors were shut down, are still providing much-needed power to Japan. But there was another unlikely survivor amongst the rubble -- the high speed rail infrastructure that's so central to the nation's transportation was left almost entirely intact.

Grist's Christopher Mims reports:

The tsunami that struck Japan had a devastating effect on at least four trains closest to the epicenter of the quake, washing them away completely. But in the rest of the country, it appears that the earthquake and its aftershocks only derailed a single passenger train, even through the entire main island moving 8 feet.

Despite the fact that they were traveling at over 200 mph at the time of the quake, not a single bullet train derailed.

And if you're curious as to what it's like for a 200 mph bullet train to do an emergency stop, check out the first-hand account of Nick Schneider, who was riding on one of the trains when the quake hit.

Finally, despite the crises wracking the rest of the nation, reports are in that trains are already again running on time.

Could it merely be coincidence that two of the things to emerge from the disaster relatively unscathed are also among the most sustainable? Methinks not.

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More on the Japan Earthquake
How the Japan Earthquake Shortened Earth's Day
Yes, Climate Change May Cause More Tsunamis . No, That's Not Alarmism
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