Chinese railway sector has been greatly shaken by the train accident occurred in Wenzhou three weeks ago. Friday, the manufacturer China CNR Corp has announced the recall of fifty-four high-speed trains operating from Beijing to Shanghai due to technical problems. This decision comes as the Chinese government announced the suspension of new rail construction project in the east after the disaster of July 23. Three weeks ago, the collision of two high-speed trains had caused the death of forty people. A stationary train near Wenzhou in eastern China, stopped by a power cut, was hit by another high-speed train. This is the worst rail disaster occurred in China since 2008.
Technical review of fifty-four trains (about a quarter of traffic) should help “ensure the quality and safety of trains,” said China CNR Corp in a statement. The recalled high-speed trains, built by China with technologies from the German Siemens, have “minor but widespread” problems on heat detectors, said Tan Xiaofeng, spokesman for China CNR Corp. Trading in CNR was suspended Thursday at the Shanghai Stock Exchange and had not returned Friday.
The recall was a response to the causes of the accident. If as stated by Luo Lin, head of the investigation team on the disaster in China Daily, the accident would have “absolutely been avoided,” there is still no consensus on the causes of the tragedy . Luo Lin discusses design errors in hardware while the Shanghai Railway Bureau had said late on July 1 issue of signal equipment.
Beyond the technical causes, the rapid expansion of the Chinese high-speed train is called into question. China took three years to build its network of high-speed railways, against twenty years normally required. The high-speed train network was inaugurated in 2007 and has grown very fast. It should go from 8358 km in the end of 2010 to more than 13,000 km in 2012 and 16,000 km in 2020. But the Chinese do not want a “bloody GDP”. The government has already decided to limit the speed of the high-speed train. The global ambitions of China CNR Corp to compete with the French Alstom, Canada’s Bombardier and Germany’s Siemens in the market of high-speed trains, are likely to slow down.