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Gate Glitch Allows Free Ride to Tokyo Rail Commuters

Innumerable rail users in Tokyo took a free trip to office on the morning of Friday following a system malfunction that made over 7,000 gates on 662 railroad terminals to break down.

The ticket gates, which permit commuters carrying contactless smart cards to enter the station, failed when power was turned on at the onset of services on October 12, 2007 and railroad operators decided to let all commuters travel for free. A multitude of commuters utilize the contactless smart cards, and making them purchase paper tickets would have led to winding ticket lines and overcrowding at train stations during morning office rush.

According to local news broadcasts, preliminary inquiry has identified a snag in data communication linking the ticket gates to a computer server.

As per the Kanto IC card compatibility council, a firm established by the railroad operators, and Nippon Signal, a software flaw was the culprit behind this ticket-gate trouble at over 660 stations in Tokyo.

As the malfunction had troubled almost 2.5 Million passengers, the Construction and Transport Ministry plans to have a meeting with railway operators to talk about steps to stop a repetition.

The break down also impacted passengers in the evening on October 12, 2007.

While clarifying the cause of the snag, Nippon Signal informed that prior to ticket gates getting functional every day, information on disenabled IC-cards allegedly snitched is generally communicated to them by the IC card compatibility center, as reported by DAILY Yomiuri Online on October 14, 2007.

Once a specific volume of information is sent out to the ticket gates, a software flaw can cause glitches. This way, the data transmitted on the morning of October 12, 2007 made the gates stop working.

The trouble erupted at stations managed by Tokyo Metro Co. Ltd., East Japan Railway Co., and a number of private railway vendors.

By 9:20 a.m., Tokyo Metro had repaired the flaws at all malfunctioning stations, reported its representative, Shigeaki Matsumura, as per news published by Bloomberg on October 12, 2007. East Japan Railway had repaired the snag at every impacted station by 9:58 a.m., representative Hitoshi Noguchi informed in a statement to the October 12, 2007 edition of Bloomberg.

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