Shanghai Rail Commuters Get Onboard With a Prayer

At Bloomberg’s World View blog, Adam Minter describes reactions to the recent Metro accident in Shanghai, where many, for all their reservations, have little choice but to keep riding the subway and hope for the best.

As Shanghai’s housing prices rise, residents have little choice but to move further and further away from the city center. They rely on the subway lines to get to work, but the lines were built quickly and shoddily. A common feeling among Shanghai’s commuters is that the subway was not designed to serve them, but to enhance the status of Shanghai’s Communist Party leaders.

Before the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, the city opened four new subway lines intended, in part, to ferry visitors to the Expo grounds from airports and other transportation hubs. Many Shanghai residents worried at the time that the lines were being built too hastily to meet safety standards. But city leaders seemed more afraid that the subway lines would be attacked by terrorists during the Expo. Instead of making it a priority to fix problems with the subway’s infrastructure, they installed x-ray machines to scan the bags of passengers.

A year and a half after the Expo, the scanners remain. BBPanda, a user of Sina Weibo, posted this observation shortly after the Sept. 27 crash: “The metro, which can’t guarantee operational security, still has time to check my bag every day. My bag is sure to be safer than your metro.”

Shanghai Daily quoted Tongji University professor Luo Yanyun, who has similar concerns about misplaced priorities in the expansion of Shanghai’s transit system:

Luo said the lack of good management and the poor abilities of Metro staff were concerns with the city boasting it would have the world’s longest Metro track, more than 500 kilometers, by next year.

“The focus still lies on construction now,” said Luo. “The operation management lags behind.”

See also earlier coverage of the accident on CDT: Shanghai Metro Crash Injures More Than 200 and Power Failure, Human Error Blamed for Shanghai Metro Crash.