Beijing-Shanghai rail still superior despite recent mishaps

15:10, July 21, 2011      

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The Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway was recently in an awkward situation. It had a power supply stoppage on July 10, 11 days after it began operation, causing the delay of some trains. Two days later, a high-speed train broke down in the midway, causing more delay. The more unexpected thing is that high-speed trains again had troubles on July 13 and July 14.

Such frequent accidents made the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway the subject of many questions. The Ministry of Railways announced that the "outage" proved that the high-speed railway has good security, and it will make sure the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway makes it through this period of frequently occurring mishaps as soon as possible.

The Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway is destined to be subjected to many high expectations as the high-speed railway with the longest one-time construction mileage, the most investments and the highest standards of technology since the founding of the new China. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for people to have doubts about the high-speed railway when such sudden accidents occur. However, related departments do not only need public tolerance and understanding. The most urgent thing is to show the superiority of the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway with excellent achievements to restore people's confidence.

Of the advantages of the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway, the primary one should be its outstanding safety performance, and currently, it is just a focus of the disputes. Logically, the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway, which has integrated numerous distinctive technologies, must be extremely excellent in the area of safety performance.

However, since failures have frequently occurred in the railway, passengers worry about its safety. The Ministry of Railway said that the abnormal stops of the trains were caused by the high safety precautions. That could be an explanation. However, does it mean the trains on the railway will frequently have abnormal stops if they meet bad weather such as rainstorms and strong winds? If high safety factors could lead to high-frequency failures, does it mean that the railway is actually fragile in another way?

An important advantage of the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway is the speed and efficiency. The speed of 300 kilometers per hour can shorten the travel time between Beijing and Shanghai to less than five hours, and it will greatly alleviate the tense situation of insufficient passenger transportation capacity. However, what has worried passengers is that some trains were as much as several hours behind schedule during the recent failures. In this case, the speed advantage of the railway will be weakened greatly. Facing the severe challenges, the Ministry of Railway must take some effective measures and guarantee both the speed and safety of the railway. Otherwise, realizing the goal of transporting about 160 million passengers per year will be nothing but empty talk.

Furthermore, the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway should have a sound management system and provide first-class services for passengers. However, facts have proved that the railway still has a long way to go in this aspect. It can be seen from the recent failures that there are many problems concerning the services on the bullet trains. For example, after power outages, passengers on trains lacked access to food and dinking water as well as effective information, which fully exposed the lack of service awareness among the staff of high-speed trains. In addition, due to the unsound emergency response mechanism, most passengers, who paid much money for high-speed train tickets but failed to enjoy high speed, did not receive the compensation they deserved. The Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway not only needs to ensure smooth functioning, but also should establish a sound management system and provide better services for passengers.

A silver lining of the frequent failures is that the damage can be minimized because the earlier a problem is exposed, the earlier it will be solved. Railway authorities should draw lessons from the frequent failures and try their best to discover and solve hidden problems in order to bring the advantages of high-speed trains into full play.

By Zhu Xiaolong from Guangming Daily, translated by People's Daily Online

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