The tragic train accident in Zhejiang Province raises questions about the reliability of Chinese high-speed rail network, which was said to be the pride of the regime.
Three weeks after the grand opening of the Beijing-Shanghai line, the bullet trains derailed on July 23, causing a serious accident near Wenzhou in eastern China (at least 39 dead and over 210 injured). The accident has cast a harsh light on the failures of a system that was nevertheless proud of regime. Several officials were ousted, and an investigation will be conducted.
“It was originally designed too fast”
Officially, it’s a storm that would have disturbed the security systems. But many experts believe the explanation a little short and pale. And that’s a whole system of development is now being questioned.
“China is building too fast,” said the Prof. Zhao Jian (赵坚) from Beijing Jiaotong University. “It is a complex network, and the authorities have not taken the time to make the necessary tests. I do not think our country should invest in this high-tech system.”
Zhao is always an opponent of the Chinese high-speed rail network. Even before this tragic accident, he had sounded the alarm, worrying about the exorbitant cost of such investments. To build 45,000 km of high speed rail, the state will pay out some 300 billion euros by 2015. “An investment that is to the liabilities, not assets, of the country. Lines already opened are all losing money, the trains are empty,” he said.
Take Zhengzhou-Xi’an line for example, it was designed to carry 37 million passengers a year. Now for the moment, barely 4 million. Alone, the new Beijing-Shanghai line has cost 23 billion euros.
Symbol of “Made in China”
The high-speed rail network has accumulated disappointments. Liu Zhijun, Minister of Railways, was first removed from office for corruption: he is accused of embezzling 104 million euros, keeping a score of concubines, and especially for helping to overestimate the potential of the Chinese rail. By launching all-out work with poor quality materials and porous concrete, it has sealed the failure of this project.
The Chinese high-speed rail network was supposed to run at 380 km/h. Yet its speed does not exceed 300 or 250 km/h. “For security reasons,” said the authorities. In fact, it seems that the railway subgrade can not take the shock. Adding to that the repeated delays, breakdowns and relentless staff, to top it all, the tragic accident of July 23. One of the jewels of the national industry has become the symbol of the worst “Made in China”.
Bad copy and paste
Yet the regime’s propaganda insists on speaking to an accident due to lightning. Worse, it also accuses the Canadian group Bombardier, which in 2009 won a bid of 2.76 billion euros for the construction of eighty high-speed trains, have botched the job. The same accuse goes for the equipment provided by Germany’s Siemens.
The system supposedly being made in China is in fact a bad copy and paste of Western technologies. Zhou Yimin (周翊民), former deputy director of the ministry’s high-speed department, is spreading accusations in the media. He accuses the authorities have developed these high-speed lines “through the acquisition of foreign technology, pushed the system beyond the limits of reliability,” and perhaps even the sustainability of the network. A network that China yet dreamed of competing in the famous Japanese Shinkansen and it hoped to sell the technology in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and even the United States. Ambition now stalled.