From Jiji Peess
February 2 2021
OITA City – The first oral argument in a lawsuit in which three people with disabilities in Oita City sought damages from JR Kyushu (Fukuoka City) was held at the Oita District Court on the 4th, alleging that the unmanned railway station violated freedom of movement. The background of the unmanned operation nationwide is the population decline and labor shortage, but the plaintiffs say, “How can we make the station easy to use? It will be a catalyst for discussion.”
Harumi Yoshida (67), one of the plaintiffs with cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair. To use the train, the assistance of the station staff is indispensable, and the JR side explains that it will respond if you get the prior contact, but she has been refused “I can not respond to the contact on the day”.
Since March 2018, JR Kyushu has had five unmanned stations in Oita City. Yoshida and others are requesting the relocation of station staff, JR Kyushu, whose management issue is to reduce the deficit of the railway business, asks for understanding “to maintain the railway network for the long term.”
Railway companies are required to ensure the safety and convenience of users, including people with disabilities. On the other hand, unmanned stations have spread all over the country due to management decisions based on the usage situation in depopulated areas, and according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, 48.2% of the total has been unmanned as of FY2007. It is also progressing in urban areas, increasing by about 5% from 2001.
While showing an understanding of this situation, Yoshida complains, “How can we make the station easy for people with disabilities and the elderly to use? I want to involve society and trigger discussions.”
A person speaking for the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism pointed out that “there is a priority in station staffing. What is needed at the time of station operations and unmanned operation? It is necessary to collect and share cases.” He says that he will work with disability organizations and railway companies to understand the actual situation and formulate guidelines for reducing personnel.