Two bullet trains collided in a Southern Chinese city, Fuzhou, on July 23rd, with a casualty of over 40 people. Why this has happened is still under investigation, and hopefully will be revealed by mid-September, according to Xinhua Net. One of the articles about this from the New York Times majorly repeats what has been reported on the Chinese media.
As of now, the initial explanation that has been given by the the Chinese government is that the lightning of that night confused the operating system that commands both trains. The first train lost its power and stopped, and the second train did not get any stop signal. I give the benefit of doubt on this explanation. I’m still waiting on the final authoritative version, if there is ever going to be one.
One thing that strikes me as bizarre is that the rescue workers berried the cars that had fallen off the bridge within 24 hours after the accident, saying that the trains carry high-profile technologies that the government doesn’t want its competitors to know about. Well, the first train was basically imported from Canada and the second one was from Japan, so the high-profile technology the Chinese government was talking about was not theirs to begin with. I don’t if the transportation authorities were trying to get by by berrying the evidence so quickly or they are just plain ignorant about some common sense that you don’t get rid of wreck until you are more than 100% sure there is no body in the wreck. Some interviews with rescue workers have been revealed saying that the transportation department leaders gave commands to berry the wreck when no sign of life was detected by machines, until some of the rescue workers petitioned to double-check and they did find a young girl still alive covered by layers of dead bodies. Here’s a story on this for those of you who read Chinese.
Questions have been raised up about if China is really ready for high-speed trains. The operating system that took most of the blame in this accident is from a company in Beijing and has been put in use since 2009. It has been talked about that China could be an exporter of bullet trains, and China has been trying really hard on this. Within the past six years,some bullet train speed has been raised six times to 350km/h. While Japan has no bullet train with speed above 300km/h, although Japanese high-speed train could reach 420km/h in testing runs, according to an article on suhu.net. With such a accident, China most likely can forget about the business of exporting bullet trains for a while.
I want to say this is another reminder to China that it might has been trying to develop too hard too fast.