Thursday, 29 September 2011

Crash Course to Development

Rescuers evacuating passengers from the subway carriage
People's confidence in public transport has been shaken again after the collision of two subway trains in Shanghai on Tuesday.
Luckily no one died, but 280 were injured, some in serious condition. Newspapers were splashed with pictures of people with blood-soaked shirts or distraught passengers escorted to safety.
It happened near Yu Yuan station at 2:51pm when one train rear ended another on Line 10, 40 minutes before Shanghai Metro reported equipment failures on a train. At the time of the crash, drivers were operating the trains manually. 
An initial investigation is now saying a power cut was the cause of the signaling fault and that the collision was caused by staff failing to follow correct procedures, Shanghai Metro said in a statement last night.
There were attempts to put the blame of the latest crash on Casco, a company that also supplied equipment that was implicated in the Wenzhou train crash in July. 
However Alstom, the French firm that owns part of Casco, denied its products were connected to the Wenzhou crash. "Casco only provided the apparatus that is inside the station, which consisted of panels to inform passengers of the train departures and arrivals," an Alstom spokeswoman aid of the July 23 disaster that killed 40 people.
Casco is a Shanghai-based joint venture between China Railway Signal and Communication Corporation and Alstom.
Shanghai's subway line has been plagued with problems for years and they were previously shrugged off because no one was hurt.
Professor Xie Xiaofei, a Peking University psychologist said the public had good reason to feel angry and fearful even if they didn't take the subway often, their friends and loved ones probably did.
"In most people's mindset, the metro is run on mature technology. Such kinds of public transportation have been running in other countries for many years without much problem," she said.
So why can't China get its act together and manage its subway systems properly? Obviously something wrong. Safety cannot be compromised when moving millions of people everyday. But there seems to be no incentive to fix problems.
Nevertheless, there will probably be no thorough or transparent investigation so we will never know exactly what happened and who really is to blame.
Which is why it's understandable the Chinese cannot trust the government to deliver safe, efficient infrastructure in a time of so-called rapid development.

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