By Barrier Free Japan with extracts from The Asahi Shimbun
February 12 2022
OITA – On February 10th, the Oita District Court heard oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by three wheelchair users in Oita City who claimed that they suffered from restrictions on their freedom of movement due to JR Kyushu’s decision to make its stations unmanned. The plaintiffs presented their views on JR Kyushu’s decision to make four new stations in the prefecture unmanned, and appealed to the court to “take a sincere look at its role as a public transportation system once again.
The plaintiff is Harumi Yoshida, 68, a director of a social welfare corporation who is severely disabled.
On December 23 last year, JR Kyushu announced that a total of 29 stations in six prefectures in Kyushu would become unmanned. The stations to be closed in the prefecture are Royal Sun Young, Royal Sun Young and Royal Beppu on the Nippo Line and Amagase on the Kyuudai Line.
Yoshida said, “The sudden announcement was only posted on JR Kyushu’s website and at stations. We demanded that an explanatory meeting be held, but without one, the president held a press conference on January 27 and declared that he would go ahead with the project,” he said.
Yoshida added, “This trial is no longer just about us disabled people, but about the safety and convenience of the elderly, women, children and others who have no other means of transportation in the region but the JR.
According to Yoshida, the number of signatures opposing the unmanned trains has reached 73,113, while the number of signatures supporting the lawsuit has reached 40,000. Yoshida said the signatures have come from all over Japan, including Hyogo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka.
Yoshida said, “Just as the JR line is connected to all parts of the country, the desire to keep station staff is also connected to all parts of the country as one.
As for the new unmanned stations, Yasuyuki Tokuda, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said, “We are not thinking of filing an additional lawsuit because the issues are the same and it will only prolong the lawsuit.”