Sabotage Paralyzes Tokyo Rail NetworkEUGENE MOOSA , Associated Press
Nov. 29, 1985 11:23 PM ET
TOKYO (AP) _ A special unit of 320 detectives was created Saturday to question the 48 suspects arrested in the sabotage of the Japan National Railways system and pursue the investigation, police officials reported.
Service was back to normal, but the attacks by left-wing saboteurs who cut railway cables at 34 points had caused near chaos during Tokyo's Friday morning rush hour.
Officials said police also were checking to determine if the slashings late Friday of three small cables near the Matsukawa station, 140 miles northeast of Tokyo, were connected with the Friday morning attacks. The cables controlled railway traffic signals.
The sabotage early Friday knocked out computers that control Japan's vital train system and paralyzed commuter lifelines that carry millions of people to Tokyo.
It was the worst disruption caused by violence since the 1960s to a rail system renowned for punctuality and good service. Mikio Takahashi, a spokesman for the state-owned Japan National Railways, said 6 million Tokyo commuters were affected and another half-millon in the Osaka area of western Japan.
Another JNR spokesman, Shumi Kurimoto, said Saturday that the loss in ticket sales throughout the country totalled 1.3 billion yen - $6.46 million.
Police arrested 48 people, and searched offices of the 1,300-member radical leftist group Chukaku-ha (Middle Core Faction) and the headquarters of the small Chiba Motormen's Union, said Tadashi Ito, spokesman for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police.
He said authorities believed up to 300 Chukaku-ha members, in groups of about 10, set out at about 3 a.m. with wire cutters and clipped hundreds of coaxial and optical cables along railway tracks.
They were believed to be acting in sympathy with Chiba motormen who began a 24-hour strike Thursday afternoon to protest a possible government sale of the railroad system to private investors, according to the spokesman.
Chairman Hiroshi Nakano of the Chiba union that split off from the National Motormen's Union, issued a statement saying: ''The attacks have nothing to do with the union.''
The sudden halt in 20 of Tokyo's commuter lines and two Osaka lines caused near-chaos in the morning rush hour. About 4 million frustrated commuters flocked to buses, subways and private rail lines, forming long lines at stations.
Some tried driving to work, which caused huge traffic jams on highways leading into Tokyo. Another 2 million passengers had been affected by the time partial service was restored on all 22 lines at 5 p.m.
The lost cables also cut communications among 360 stations in the Tokyo area and halted operations at 100 of the the rail system's computer-run ticket reservation centers, said Takahashi, the railway spokesman.
High-speed ''bullet'' trains between Tokyo and the southwestern main island of Kyushu were delayed by as much as 21/2 hours by what appeared to be damage to cables caused by a time bomb near Hiroshima, Takahashi said.
About 50 people wearing helmets and masks broke into the Asakusabashi station in downtown Tokyo just after dawn and hurled gasoline bombs, starting fires that gutted the station, said Ito, the police spokesman. No injuries were reported, but the station was closed.
Takahashi said it was the worst disruption of service due to violence since 1968, when student demonstrators smashed up several Tokyo stations during protests against the U.S.-Japan defense treaty.
Many schools in Tokyo canceled classes. National television showed rows of vacant desks in offices and relatively empty streets in the capital's Otemachi business district.
Cables connected to computers that control the complicated train operations are not buried along most of national railway's 12,500 miles of track, over which it runs nearly 20,000 trains a day. The control systems are especially vital in Tokyo, where 10-car trains arrive in stations every two minutes during rush hours.
Masashi Kamata, 32, a top leader of the Chukaku-ha, was among those arrested Friday on suspicion of assembling with dangerous weapons, interfering with public duties and committing arson.
The Chukaku-ha has a long history of arson, bloody infighting and other violence.
It has participated in several demonstrations against plans to expand Tokyo's new international airport at Narita, supporting farmers who would lose their land.
Chukaku-ha members were among 2,230 radicals who fought with about 9,500 riot police on Oct. 20. There were 241 arrests and 152 policemen were injured. Japan National Railways has recorded huge deficits every year since 1963 and Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone's government is studying plans to turn it into several private companies. The striking union has 1,100 members and split from the 34,200-member National Motormen's Union in the late 1970s.
No estimate of economic damage was available, but the Kyodo News Service reported that repairs to the fire-bombed station alone would cost the equivalent of $1.25 million.