China’s train accident unthinkable here: expert

Kyodo

A Japanese expert who analyzed video footage of Saturday’s fatal bullet train accident in China said Sunday it was an accident hard to imagine happening here, even though one of the trains involved appears to be one modeled on a domestic shinkansen.

A JR official said shinkansen systems have been equipped with automatic train control devices since they were inaugurated in 1964 because of the understanding that it would be difficult for the driver to rely on visual traffic confirmation of the need to apply the brakes on the high-speed service.

The ATC automatically stops a train if another is detected ahead.

If the system fails or power is lost, the brakes are applied automatically.

Shinkansen trains operated by Japanese railways have been designed using the concept that they should stop whenever an anomaly is detected, the JR official said. Since their launch, no collisions have happened, according to the official.

Given the logos on the carriages, the train that rear-ended the other one appears to be a CRH2 model manufactured on technology from Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., while the one that was rear-ended is assumed to be a CRH1, based on technology from Canada’s Bombardier Inc.

A public relations official of KHI said, “No comments can be made because the cause of the accident remains unknown.”

A source at the company, however, said it has long been concerned about the Chinese approach of prioritizing speed at the expense of safety.

The CRH2 is based on the Hayate bullet train that runs on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line operated by East Japan Railway Co. Based on technology supplied by Kawasaki Heavy, Chinese state-run company China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corp. took the lead in developing the CRH2. A total of 120 trains and 960 cars have already been delivered to the Ministry of Railways.

Their maximum speed is set at between 200-275 kph to ensure safety. China, however, started commercial operations at a maximum 350 kph on some routes.

After learning this, Kawasaki Heavy said it had secured a written guarantee from China that the Japanese company “would not be held responsible” if an accident was caused due to speed.

At the moment, it is unknown whether the accident was caused by factors relating to operations or faulty vehicle components or both. Kawasaki Heavy said it is not involved in the running of the trains in China.