On July 23 China’s high-speed rail system suffered a severe blow when two trains collided on the tracks in a thunderstorm killing 40 people and wounding 200.Investigative Chinese news site Caixin published the most detailed account of the incident so far calling it “a systematic breakdown for railway operations and management in China … a breakdown that began with a no-holds barred race to build high-speed railways.” Following are some highlights from Caixin’s five-page story.
- The fast train D301 came upon train D3115 after it was told to slow down by a control station in far-away Shanghai who was getting “red-light zone” messages. Unseen by train engineers, this warning is what D301 should have been receiving.
- The red-light zone message implied either mechanical failure or a slower moving train ahead, despite this the Shanghai dispatcher allowed D3115 to move ahead slowly — just as it began to roll it was slammed from behind by D301 at full speed.
- Red-light zones are a problem for dispatchers who receive bonuses by keeping trains on time and D301’s dispatcher was trying to make up for lost time.
- D3115’s dispatcher told the train it could go no faster than 20 mph when just moments before dispatchers from the same office told D3115 to speed up to 120 mph.
- Experts say that train engineers require three months of training to become proficient. The Chinese ministry allows only 10 days.
- Japan took 10 years to build its 100-kilometer line and China has built several thousand kilometers in the same amount of time.
- State-owned monopoly, China Railway Signal & Communication, integrated the signal system on that rail section and 57 others Nationwide — the company is corrupt, nepotism and substandard products are common.
- After the dispatcher failed and the signaling equipment failed on July 23, an automatic backup safety system failed as well.
- Unveiled in 2007 the entire system was called a rear-end collision prevention system that would always keep two trains at least five minutes apart.
- Decisions not to open some cars to rescue survivors was based on a life detector that failed to find a two-year-old girl found alive more than 20 hours later.
- Officials turned several hundred villagers away offering help — resuming rail traffic was the priority.
- When China Railway officials arrived nine-hours later they brought a crane and backhoes to immediately bury the damaged cars.
- Pressured by the public and the media, the cars were dug back up for the currently ongoing investigation.
It’s enough to make you look at second time at these stunning pictures of superfast Chinese bullet trains >
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