Commentary by Hank F. Miller Jr.
Note: Hank is a former resident of Gloucester City who resides in Kitakyushu City, Japan. category WHEN EAST MEETS WEST
Doubts about China's breakneck plans to expand high-rail across the country have been underscored by a bullet train wreck that killed at least 36 people.
Image via Wikipedia
Railways Minister Sheng Guangzu has apologized to the victims of Saturday's crash, and their families.
"As I watched on TV the complete broadcast',I noted most for my commentary from many other news sources to bring this news to you first hand that came out of China."The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said two U.S. citizens were among the dead.
A train rammed into the back of another train that was stalled after being hit by lightning in China's deadliest rail accident since 2008.
Six carriages derailed and four fell about 20 to 30 meters form a viaduct. More than 190 people were injured.The Railway ministry and government officials haven't explained why the second train was apparently not warned there was a stalled train in it's path. One expert said he thought human error may have been involved."I think the problem may have come from mistakes of dispatching management, instead of technological failure,"said Qi Qixin, a professor at the Transportation Research Institute of Beijing University of Technology.
The system should have the ability to automatically issue a warning or even stop a train under such circumstances,"he added.The accident is the latest blow to China's bullet train ambitions. Designed to show off the country's rising wealth and technological prowess,the national prestige attached to the high-speed rail project is on a par with China's space program.
Beijing plans to expand the high-speed rail network-already the world's biggest-to link far-flung regions and is also trying to sell it's trains to Latin America and the Middle East.
Last month,it launched to great fanfare the Beijing to Shanghai high-speed line,who's trains can travel at a speed of 300 kph.The speed was cut from the originally planned 350 kph after questions were raised about safety.
In less than four weeks of operation,power outages and other malfunctions have plagued the showcase 1,318-km line.The Railways Ministry previously apologized for the problems and said that summer thunder storms and winds were the cause in some cases.Official plans call for China's bullet train network to expand to 13,000 km of track this year and 16,000 km by 2020.
China's trains are based on Japanese, French and German technology not China's, manufacturers are trying to sell to Latin America and the Middle East as I have mentioned previously.
That has prompted complaints that Beijing is violating the spirit of licenses with foreign providers by reselling technology that was meant to be used only by China for their benefit.
Saturday's accident involved the first generation bullet trains, which were launched in 2007 and have the speed of 250 kph-slower than the new Beijing to Shanghai trains.The tragedy pummeled railway shares with China Railway Group sliding 7.7 percent.The high-speed rail woes added to the already negative sentiment from the U.S.debt deadlock, sending the Shenghai Composite Index down 3 percent to 2,688.75.
The ministry of Railways said in a statement on it's website on Monday the accident had killed 36 people and injured 192.The crash happened when a bullet train traveling south from the Zhejiang provincial capital of Hangzhou lost power in a lightning strike,stalled and was hit from behind by a second train in Wenzhou.The officials at the Shanghai Railway Bureau were fired after the accident, and the state media have raised questions,especially as rail travel moves hundreds of millions of people a year.
In an editorial entitled "Train crash lesson for railway progress,"the Global Times said the accident should be"a bloody lesson for the entire railway industry in China."The newspaper and TV said the collision casts doubt on China's high-speed railway expansion plans because the country "lacks experience"as it seeks to join the top ranks of railway engineering.
It is said China's high-speed railway has become"the newest target of public criticism,"adding the accident should lead to"safer, not slower, railway transportation."
Warm Regards from Hot Sunny Kitakyushu City,Japan
Hank F. Miller Jr.