High-speed train safety

Updated: 2011-07-25 11:29

(China Daily)

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The fatal accident involving two high-speed trains on Saturday evening is a reminder that safety can never be over-emphasized.

The death toll from the collision in Wenzhou, East China's Zhejiang province, has reached 35 with 192 injured and the Ministry of Railways has already published an open apology.

The accident happened when a lightening strike cut power to one train, bringing it to a halt, and it was then hit in the rear by a following train.

Apart from doing whatever can be done to save the lives of the injured and restoring normal services, it is important to get to the root of the tragedy and find out the chain of circumstances that led to the accident.

The country's high-speed railways have developed rapidly in recent years. In only a little more than a decade, China has constructed nearly 10,000 kilometers of high-speed railways, the world's longest network. These trains have considerably reduced the traveling time between many cities and greatly eased the heavy pressure from the billions of passengers that use the nation's railways, especially during the busy seasons.

While efficient and convenient, if there is one thing that may cause passengers to hesitate before boarding a high-speed train, it is safety. It is not that they don't trust the various measures that have been employed to ensure the safety of the high-speed lines, it is just that common sense suggests that the higher the speed of the trains, the more sophisticated the technology will be and the greater the risk if there is a failure of any link in the safety chain.

In other words, high-speed railways place much higher requirements on everything: The materials must be of higher quality and so must the construction of the lines and rolling stock. Also the tracks, the trains and communications systems must be much more frequently checked, without allowing for any errors or slacking of efforts, to make sure they are working correctly.

What is even more important is that all who work with the whole system must be trained to strictly follow the rules so that the safe running of high-speed trains will not be affected by any dereliction of duty as it is a matter of life and death for passengers on the trains. Efforts are also needed to make sure that the railways are not vulnerable to extreme weather conditions.

The lives lost cannot be brought back. But the Ministry of Railways must learn the lessons from this accident taught with their blood.

The cause of the accident must be carefully investigated, without ignoring any possible link, however tiny. Only in this way will the management of our high-speed railways be raised to such a level that the possibility of another accident will be reduced to the minimum.