18 February 2019
Each stage of construction is geared toward the safety of the entire railway network. Photo: Reuters
Each stage of construction is geared toward the safety of the entire railway network. Photo: Reuters

POLICY WATCH: Better late than sorry

Remember Wenzhou? In July 2011, the coastal city of three million in Zhejiang province was the scene of a horrific high-speed train crash that killed 40 people.

In its aftermath, the government ordered a nationwide review of rail safety and froze new rail projects.

After coming away with a hard lesson from the tragedy, it’s leaving nothing to chance.

On Jan. 1, the government will usher in a raft of regulations designed to improve rail safety and prevent a repeat of the Wenzhou disaster, according to an official document released Thursday.

The new rules cover everything from rail construction time and train recall to passenger conduct.

In the case of railway construction, the policy is this: Better late than sorry and more hands make safer trains.

The government wants train makers to spend as much time as it takes to ensure the safety of railway tracks and rolling stock, instead of going for a record finish. It wants them to deploy more manpower to ensure compliance with tighter safety standards from production to operation.

Related parties will be required to establish safety management units.

Railway construction needs a comprehensive and detailed plan from initial design to completion, with each stage of production geared to the safety of the entire railway network.

During construction, railway projects will be closely monitored by the government. Construction materials and equipment will undergo mandatory testing for any safety issues. All newly built railways should pass a final assessment by the government before commercial operation.

The new rules forbid government departments and officials from interfering with approved construction schedules. These will be made public and the entire process put under scientific monitoring.

Substandard trains and those involved in accidents will be subject to mandatory recall. Manufacturers will be held responsible for such recalls if problems are found in those trains.

Finally, passengers will be asked to help ensure their own safety. In addition to specific regulations on passenger conduct, there are rules to protect individual rights, health and comfort. For example, passengers caught smoking on high-speed trains face a fine of 500 yuan (US$81.60) to 2,000 yuan.

China had 9,300 kilometers of high-speed railways at the end of last year, the world’s largest such network and a source of national pride until a string of corruption and safety scandals in recent years turned it into an object of widespread public resentment.

– Contact the reporter at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer

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