Risk awareness urged in high-speed rail era

09:39, July 27, 2011      

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Facing the "hazards of civilization" that have come with modernization, China must have sufficient risk awareness and adequate countermeasures.

After a high-speed train rear-ended another one on July 23, the central government has drawn particular attention to the relief work, and the work — rescue, medical treatment and notification of relatives — was initiated as soon as possible. It was moving that many Wenzhou residents proactively went to the site of the accident to help transfer passengers and queued to donate blood overnight.

The high-speed train crash was the latest in a "summer filled with accidents." Because the accident relates to a railway that has always been considered safe, it has led to a considerable social impact. The high frequency of safety incidents in a wide range of sectors, including a bus fire, coal mine floods, an escalator failure and bridge collapses, has sounded a warning to the "society with hazards."

Incidents, such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and Japan's nuclear leak, have shown that the more sophisticated the technology is in the modern society, the more complicated the technology will be. The more advanced the technology is, the more interdependent and interactive the technology will be. A tiny mistake and any negligence of details will possibly lead to hazards.

Today's China is faced with many risks. The country has made remarkable progress in modernization in the last half century, while the same progress took Western countries several hundred years.

Unfortunately, many risks are unavoidable in the process of modernization. Urbanization, industrialization, informationization and modernization have brought both benefits and risks to the people. Therefore, people should be vigilant against possible dangers and develop effective countermeasures in order to attach a "safety belt" to the "era of rapid development."

China's railway sector has entered a "high speed" era after long efforts, ranking first in the world in terms of the total length and top speed of high-speed railways. China needs high-speed railways, but it should be noted that faster speeds, shorter intervals and more routes should be accompanied by better management systems and greater safety consciousness. This should be an essential principle for the development of high-speed railways.

When high-speed trains are "flying like a bullet," a safety belt made up of a sound management system and great consciousness of responsibility should be fastened. Only in this way will China's high-speed railway sector really deserve its top ranking.

There are usually many minor or near accidents before a major one occurs. China's high-speed railways had experienced many minor failures before this train crash, and the crash may have been avoided if enough attention was paid to previous failures.

Immediately after the crash, Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang rushed to the accident scene and stressed that the accident must be thoroughly investigated in order to not let the Chinese people down. This has shown the central government's firm determination to draw lessons from the accident, to identify its cause and close loopholes, to strictly punish those responsible and to adequately compensate accident victims and their families. The central government will take a responsible attitude to protect the interests of the victims and to ensure public safety.

Since many fatal security accidents have occurred recently, the State Council Work Safety Committee issued a notice, requiring relative departments to effectively and uncompromisingly prevent any further major or severe accident and guarantee the safety of the people's lives and properties. It reminds the administrators of all levels that they — with a people-orientated mindset — must have an unprecedented sense of risk during the dawning of a "risky society."

While the trains are flying on the railways, has the administrative system followed up? While the buildings keep setting new records of height, are the fire protection measures and safety precautions growing with them? While new bridges and roads keep emerging, can the construction qualities and project monitoring levels rise accordingly? While we are being proud of the "Chang'e" satellites flying in the outer space and the "Jiaolong" submarine reaching the bottom of the sea, can we guarantee a more rapid development in the area of public safety?

After the accident, more trains will run on longer railway, and the development direction of China's high-speed railways will not change. However, much stronger safety awareness must be put on the agenda seriously after the accident has been handled and lesions have been learned.

Let us hope the administrative departments could strengthen the safety precautions with the responsibility of "always recalling the painful experience" and the sense of "treading on eggshells." In doing so, we will enable all passengers to reach their destinations safely. And let us hope China, a bullet train running in a complex environment at an extremely high speed, could bring its people to the future more steadily and safely.

By Zhang Tie from People's Daily, translated by People's Daily Online

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