Rail Accidents
A representational image of a passenger standing in a doorway of a train in Yangon, Myanmar, Jan. 10, 2018. Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ever heard of a barking train? No, it is not a joke. Soon people in Japan might be able to travel in such a train. A team of researchers in Japan fitted a train with a speaker that barks like a dog and snorts like a deer. The purpose: preventing animal casualties on rail tracks.

This unique idea was conceptualized by a team of researchers from Tokyo-based Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI) — a research organization under the Japan Railways group of companies. According to the researchers, deer usually make short, shrill sounds to alert its flock if they spot danger. Hence, the team decided to combine this sound with that of a dog. In their design, the sound of a deer snorting will be played for three seconds from aboard a running train car, which will be followed by 20 seconds of dog barking.

According to RTRI researchers, the snort will attract the animals' attention toward the train and the sound of barking dog will drive them away from the spot, Tokyo-based Asahi Shimbun reported.

The team said they conducted late-night trial runs in areas near railway tracks where deer usually congregate and found the number of deer sightings came down. Deer were sighted only 7.5 times per 100 kilometers (62.1 miles) from aboard the trains, about 45 percent less than when no measures were in place, a team member told Asahi Shimbun.

RTRI is hoping to introduce the system in practical use by the end of financial year 2018. If it turns out to be a success, the researchers said they would introduce static barking sites in future in areas where deer are commonly spotted. They, however, said "the noises will not be blared in areas where people live beside the tracks.”

“If our new contraption works, that will obviate the need for installing anti-trespass facilities at many locations,” said an RTRI official. “We hope to finish it into a system that works in mountainous areas and elsewhere so railroad companies will want to introduce it.”

Accidents involving animals on tracks are quite common in Japan. In financial year 2016, according to figures from the transport ministry, 613 cases were reported of train services getting cancelled or delayed for at least 30 minutes due to accidents involving deer or other animals. This was 185 more cases compared to the previous fiscal year, the Asahi Shimbun report added. In the same year, 17 accidents related to deer happened near Higashi-Aoyama Station alone.

Train companies in Japan were trying out various methods to bring this number down for a long time. This included spraying of lion feces on tracks, which turned out to a damp squib after they were washed away in rain.

Another plan involved installation of a 2.5-meter high netting along both sides of the track to prevent animals from crossing. Kintetsu Railway Co. that came up with the plan left five locations for deer to safely travel through. The company won the Good Design Award in 2017 for this plan. However, that too didn’t quite serve the purpose completely, the Mainichi reported.