Whether they admit it or not, Wikipedia is every reporter's crutch for finding mundane details on deadline. Most know to cover up their laziness. But not this Los Angeles Times foreign correspondent.

A piece on Japan's bullet trains published today by John Glionna is datelined "Nagoya, Japan." Some of it, though, could have shared a byline with the world's greatest collection of trainspotter trivia. Compare Wikipedia's entry on Japan's high-speed Shinkansen trains to Glionna's description of the advanced rail system:

Designed to traverse Japan's mountainous terrain, the trains use tunnels and viaducts to go through and over obstacles rather than around them. They travel on elevated tracks without road crossings and apart from conventional rail. An automated control system eliminates the need for signals.


In contrast to older lines, Shinkansen are standard gauge, and use tunnels and viaducts to go through and over obstacles rather than around them. With a minimum curve radius of 4,000 meters (2,500 meters in the oldest Tōkaidō Shinkansen), the system was built entirely from the ground up on elevated tracks without road crossings and separate from conventional rail. It employs an ATC (Automatic Train Control) system, eliminating the need for signals.


Officials boast that on average the trains are less than half a minute late each year, which includes delays caused by earthquakes, typhoons and snow. During the line's 45-year history and transport of 7 billion passengers, there have been no deaths from derailment or collisions.


During the Shinkansen's 44-year, nearly 7 billion-passenger history, there have been no passenger fatalities due to derailments or collisions, despite frequent earthquakes and typhoons.

The Wikipedia article has a note from the site's volunteer editors that the article's "sources remain unclear." We'll give Glionna, who became a foreign correspondent the Times last year, some credit on that count: At least it's obvious what his source was.

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