China Blames Signaling Equipment for Deadly Train Crash
Preliminary investigation into the deadly bullet train accident in Wenzhou reveals that faulty signaling equipment may be to blame. From Voice of America:
Earlier Thursday, railway officials said the crash was caused by a severe flaw in the design of signaling equipment which prevented a green light from turning to red after a lightning strike halted a train on a high-speed line south of Shanghai. That caused a second train to smash into the rear of the first, toppling several carriages off of a bridge.
The officials also said dispatchers at a station in Wenzhou should have intervened manually after the Chinese-made signaling equipment failed.
Chinese websites and newspapers have carried unusually harsh criticism of the nation’s railway officials since the accident, blaming it in part on the dangerously fast pace of China’s industrial development.
More than 100 relatives of the victims gathered at the railway station in Wenzhou on Wednesday to demand an explanation for the accident. Stung by the criticism, the government has ordered a two-month safety campaign for the rail system and launched an intensive investigation. Three rail officials have already been fired.
Following this revelation, the signal manufacturer Beijing National Railway Research & Design Institute of Signals and Communications Co. Ltd., issued a public apology. From The China Post:
The Beijing National Railway Research & Design Institute of Signals and Communications Co. Ltd. issued an apology, acknowledging that it was the source of the deadly flaw.
The Institute would “face up to shouldering responsibility, and accept any punishment that is due, and will strictly undertake pursuing culpability of those responsible”, Xinhua reported, citing an institute statement.
“Safety overrides all else, and high-speed rail safety is of even more overriding importance,” said the Institute.
The official moves to lay blame come in the face of public ire about the accident that has escalated into angry accusations that government officials have covered up facts and muted media coverage to protect an ambitious rail expansion plan and the ruling Communist Party’s image of unruffled control.
It is unclear whether public ire over the Wenzhou accident will eventually taper off or if it will grow into a larger movement. From the Miami Herald:
A Chinese railway official said Thursday that the deadly crash between high-speed trains last weekend was due to design flaws in crucial equipment that failed to flash the correct signals after a lightning strike.
Those remarks and others by Chinese leaders did little to ease mounting confusion and anger over Saturday’s accident, which killed at least 39 people and wounded more than 190.
The wreck, in which one train smashed into another from behind, has tapped a deep vein of discontent in China over corruption in big-ticket infrastructure projects and elsewhere, and is fueling a belief among some that the government doesn’t offer much protection to ordinary Chinese.
It’s not yet clear whether the controversy will become a watershed moment or simply blow over, but there are signs that the usual methods that China’s leadership uses to tamp down dissent are failing.