Japan's corporate booze culture, with frequent post-work drinking sessions, can sometimes prove fatal: tipsy travellers teeter off train platforms as they travel home.
To avoid such accidents, West Japan Railway this week launched an initiative dubbed the "Fall-from-platform prevention campaign." Automated security cameras have been installed on train platforms at Kyobashi station in Osaka specifically to detect drunk travellers and alert station attendants of their presence.
The cameras will use image analysis to detect passengers that appear like they're staggering, passed out on benches, or who have remained motionless on the platform for extended periods of time. This information is relayed on to a station attendant who verifies the images for herself, before dispatching another on-site station attendant to steer the endangered passenger from harm's way.
In a report by the Wall Street Journal, a spokesperson from West Japan Railway confirmed that the security cameras would not be used for surveillance purposes. The spokesperson also said that the plan was to roll out the campaign to other railway platforms in the rest of Japan.
Over the last two years, West Japan Railways Security Research Institute have been investigating the increase in incidents of drunk people falling off platform edges. After trawling through two years worth of train accident visual archives, the researchers found that fall-related incidents had risen by nine percent.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, in 2013 alone, 221 passengers toppled off railway platforms and were hit by high-speed trains. 60 percent of those hit were drunk. This is almost double the figures in 2003, which logged only 106 of these cases.
The researchers found that in most cases, passengers who had been immobile for a long time suddenly got back on their feet and headed straight off the platform. If you've ever found yourself dangerously close to a train platform edge after a boozy night out, you might feel comforted by the idea of being rescued by a station guardian angel in the near future.