Doubts over China’s High-Speed Rail After Crash

Following the deadly high-speed train crash in Wenzhou, China’s rail suppliers are unlikely to find customers overseas, despite recent interest from the U.S. and other countries. From Bloomberg:

“Their chances of selling high-speed trains are zero,” said Edwin Merner, president of Atlantis Investment Research Corp. in Tokyo, which manages about $3 billion in assets. “I don’t think they can ever get confidence back.”

CSR, builder of both trains in the crash, tumbled the most in about three years yesterday in Hong Kong trading, and China Rail Construction fell 6.7 percent on concerns the accident may damp China’s export push and disrupt domestic plans. Beijing- based CSR and partner General Electric Co. (GE) may bid to supply trains for a planned high-speed line in California, possibly competing against Siemens AG (SIE), Alstom SA (ALO) and Bombardier Inc. (BBD/B)

“There’s probably little chance of China winning a high- speed train order in the U.S.,” said Ryota Himeno, an analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co. “There’ll be much more importance placed on safety now.”

The San Francisco Chronicle also reports that the crash, along with numerous problems with the new Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail line, will dampen demand for property in cities along the rail lines.

Meanwhile, netizens are still going online to express their outrage at the crash and the government’s response. From the Guardian:

The railways ministry has apologised for the collision in eastern Zhejiang province and announced an inquiry. Spokesman Wang Yongping added: “China’s high-speed rail technology is up to date and up to standard, and we still have faith in it.”

Internet users attacked the government’s response to the disaster after authorities muzzled media coverage and urged reporters to focus on rescue efforts. “We have the right to know the truth!” wrote one microblogger called kangfu xiaodingdang. “That’s our basic right!”

Leaked propaganda directives ordered journalists not to investigate the causes and footage emerged of bulldozers shovelling dirt over carriages.

Wang, the railways spokesman, said no one could or would bury the story. He said a colleague told him the wreckage was needed to fill in a muddy ditch to make rescue efforts easier.

Meanwhile, even the official China Daily admits there are “unanswered questions” about the crash:

The Ministry of Railways has not explained yet why the second train was apparently not warned there was a stalled train in its path. An investigation into the cause is under way, said ministry spokesman Wang Yongping.

According to Shuai Bin, a professor at Southwest Jiaotong University, and other experts, rear-end collisions of bullet trains are rare because a bullet train has at least two ways to inform the dispatch center of its operation and position.

Yang Jixiang, a rail signaling expert with China Railway Fourth Survey and Design Institute Group, told Beijing News that bullet trains all have radio signaling systems to keep in touch with the dispatch center, which is usually set up in every railway bureau.

The government has responded by announcing a two-month safety check on the railway system.

Shanghaiist has uncovered what they believe might be the first bystander video of the crash, from a distance:

China Geeks has also continued daily round-ups of crash news. See CDT’s earlier coverage of the crash, and translated censorship guidelines for coverage of the accident.