Friday May 1 11:02 AM EDT Security tight in Japan after train sabotage By Elaine Lies TOKYO (Reuters) - Security was tightened along Japan's thousands of miles of "bullet train" lines Friday after bolts were removed from one stretch of track in an act of sabotage. Police said stations across Japan had received letters warning of further sabotage during the next week's peak holiday period known as "Golden Week." The anonymous letters threatened multi-derailments with the aim of killing more than 10,000 people during Golden Week, which moves into full gear on Saturday. On Thursday, a track inspector discovered 25 bolts missing from a lonely 45-foot stretch of track near the town of Sekigahara, 240 miles west of Tokyo. The removal of the bolts, which secure rail lines to sleepers, could have caused a train to run off the track with devastating results because of the speed at which the bullet trains travel. Although the discovery was made early in the morning before trains started running, the situation was potentially serious because the sabotage was on a slight incline where the "shinkansen," or bullet trains, usually reach their top speed of 160 mph. Police said they did not know the motive for the sabotage. Japan's Transport Ministry warned rail officials around the country to take all precautions to prevent similar incidents. "If there had been one slight mistake, this could have been a terrible tragedy," Transport Minister Takao Fujii said. A spokesman at JR Tokai, the railway company responsible for the affected track, said it also had received a warning letter but did not give further details, citing the possibility of copycat actions. "We will be increasing protection on the railroads and various connected facilities," he said. Japan's railway system has been the target of attacks in the past, mainly blamed on disgruntled employees laid off when the transport system was privatized in the 1980's. "We have not laid off any people except through attrition since the company was formed," he added. JR Tokai is one of six railway companies making up Japan Railways, which was formed in 1987 after the Japan National Railway was privatised. Spokesmen at other JR companies said they also had received letters but said they had yet to decide their response. "It actually is not that uncommon to receive threatening letters as a prank," one said. In 1990, ultra-leftists bombed concrete walls surrounding bullet train tracks in Yokohama to protest the emperor's visit to a shrine. And in 1993, the same stretch of track affected by Thursday's sabotage was hit by a similar incident, when wire ropes were strung across the tracks. Despite the latest incident, most passengers, who have come to rely on the safety and reliability of the bullet train system that was introduced in 1964, just before the Tokyo Olympics, had no plans to cancel travel plans. "Certainly this is a bit of a worry, but I expect that the tracks will be very well watched, so everything should be all right," said a woman in her forties said at Tokyo's main station.
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