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Lightning Protection Blog

Week 88 | June 19, 2014

When we think of lightning protection as it pertains to industry and disasters we think about the obvious; Oil and Gas, Communications, Power Generation, Utilities etc. But few of us think about trains, railways or transportation in general. Why not? Trains and the operating systems that run them are just as susceptible to lightning strikes as anything else and the result of a lightning strike to the railway infrastructure can be impeding and sometimes disastrous. Electricity is a major part of railway system operations and the multitude of parts and components it takes to build the railroads across the world are numerous.

Trains and railway systems getting hit and impacted happens more often than we think. In 2011, a train in Eastern China was struck by lightning which literally stopped it in its tracks by the power being knocked out. A high-speed bullet train hit the incapacitated train. 43 people perished and another 210 were injured. The total known cost of the disaster was $15.73 Million.

In an article published in the UK’s Network Rails it states that in the UK “Lightning strikes damaged rail infrastructure an average of 192 times each year between 2010 and 2013, with each strike leading to 361 minutes of delays. In addition, 58 trains a year were cancelled due to damage by lightning.” These occurrences have a huge impact on the economy and commerce.

In 2013, a resident caught on camera lightning hitting a train in Japan. It was fortunate that the strike didn’t cause any injuries, but could have been devastating had it hit in just the right place.

So when I asked my colleague from Hitachi Ltd., Akihiro Wakabayashi if he would like to contribute to the Blog, I was absolutely thrilled to find out that the piece he chose was about lightning protection for railway systems.

In Japan they have chosen to take a proactive approach to protecting the railway systems by using proven lightning protection solutions and Hitachi is leading the way in implementation.

The LightningDiva@Large

Hitachi’s Lightning Protection Solution for Trains

Protecting Private Railways in Japan
By Akihiro Wakabayashi, Dr.Eng., Department Manager, Electrical Machinery Control Systems Department, Electrical Machinery Division Hitachi, Ltd., Infrastructure Systems Company

It is no doubt that Japan is known for its reliable train operation systems including JR and private railway companies. The train operation system is highly dependable on a computational operation technology covered by sensors along the railway network to deliver punctuality for its customers.

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Railway station in Japan

Lightning has always been the number 1 threat for the operation of railways, especially under the recent operation systems with sensitive signal networks against surge or Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) resulted from a lightning as its secondary effect.

Following is one of the case studies of lighting protection for the private railways in Japan.

Tsukuba Express Line has been well known for its reliable operation with minimal down time. Their computerized operation and control systems has been equipped with conventional lightning protection system. However, in 2006 a heavy thunderstorm damaged the systems and disrupted its operations. Hitachi was asked to consult the damage and propose a solution.

The proposal included the introduction of the Dissipation Array Systems (DAS) with the following specifications:

  • Operation centre:
    1. Parapet Array with 600m dissipation wire
    2. Spline Ball Ionizer x 6
    3.  Chem-Rod x 5
  • Signal control building:
    1. Hemisphere x 2
    2. Chem-Rod x 4
  • Trolley line supporting pole:
    1. Spline Ball Ionizers x 12
    2. Chem-Rod × 3

Since the installation of DAS, there has been no lightning damage at these specific facilities for more than 7 years. This successful reference has led to the continuous installation of DAS at each station on this line every year since 2007 till present. With this success, Hitachi has implemented similar lighting protection solutions for other private railway facilities (7 private railway companies as of now).

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DAS installation at the signal control building


To conclude, Lightning is always a threat to facilities with critical operations and businesses, not limited to only the railway system as elaborated above. Any traffic systems which depend on smooth operations and minimal downtime needs to get their facilities well-protected from the unforeseen weather conditions. With its Lightning Protection Solutions (including the DAS technology), Hitachi is very keen to contribute and ensure business continuity for its customers.

As always if you have any questions or need additional information please feel free to contact me at

Be careful out there! Visit for all your lightning protection needs. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for more information and updates as well as some great photos.

Thank you for visiting,
The LightningDiva@Large

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