VANDALISM HAS emerged as the most likely cause of a train crash that killed at least 73 Japanese commuters near the city of Osaka on Monday.
Police investigators are understood to be focusing on scraping marks on the track thought to have been caused by obstructions such as rocks.
The seven car commuter train carrying 580 passengers derailed in Amagasaki, a town on the outskirts of Osaka, at 9.20am.
The train was on a curve when the front three cars derailed, ploughing into an apartment building.
Eye-witnesses had reported that the train hit a car on a level crossing, some 100m before it derailed. But the West Japan Railway Company, which runs the line, has ruled this out.
It has also played down suggestions that the train derailed because driver Ryujiro Takami was speeding. Takami is in a critical condition.
Drivers are required to reduce speed from 120km/hr to 70km/hr as they enter the bend where the accident happened.
Eye-witnesses said the train appeared to be travelling faster than usual and there is speculation that the driver was attempting to make up a for a 90 second delay after he overshot an earlier station.