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China Transportation

Bullet Train Derails In China 184

Posted by timothy
from the house-of-cards dept.
chrb writes "Xinhua is reporting that a Chinese bullet train has derailed, resulting in two of the train's coaches falling off a bridge. This comes only a few months after officials at the Railways Ministry expressed concerns that builders had ignored safety standards in the quest to build faster trains in record time — a claim that was subsequently retracted."
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Bullet Train Derails In China

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  • Collision (Score:5, Informative)

    by robertl234 (787648) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @12:34PM (#36857308)
    According to reports, a lightning strike caused the first train to lose power and was subsuequently rear-ended by a second train.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 23, 2011 @12:38PM (#36857332)

      You and your fancy "facts". Go away, we are trying to get a good rant going on the hubris of Chinese industrialization.

      • Re:Collision (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Aboroth (1841308) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @12:46PM (#36857420)
        Presumably, there should have been some kind of safety system in place to deal with a relatively common natural phenomenon called lightning. Or, just the amazingly easy to predict general problem of power loss. But clearly, you are correct, the Chinese can do no wrong here.
        • or some basic railway safety like a working signal system that stops a train on the same track from hitting one in front of it with a block size that gives it time to slow down and or stop before it even gets to the block that the train in front of it is in. Also do they have a treat a black signal as a red one?

          • Or the lightning is the new official story because they don't want to admit the train derailed due to shoddy construction caused by rampant corruption.

            Need some confirmation of what happened.

            • When the group of people who decide the official version of the story are the same group of people who are likely to benefit from bribery and under-table dealings, AND are the group of people most likely to get punished if word of corruption and under-table dealings gets out, it is hard to believe anything they say.
          • All signals are black on high speed lines, the relevant clearances are transmitted to the trains directly.

            Which brings me to the main problem: I know the Chinese use the European Train Control System and not something a few interns came up with during a coffee break. I can't imagine that the system doesn't default to having all trains come to a full stop, not to mention that the system still uses blocks and the second train should never have gotten the clearance for that block unless the first train had cl

        • by camperslo (704715)

          Presumably, there should have been some kind of safety system in place to deal with a relatively common natural phenomenon...

          That's for sure. The Japanese have done well with a much more complex safety issue, rapidly shutting down their high speed trains upon notice from their Earthquake Early Warning system.

          https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Earthquake_Early_Warning_(Japan) [wikimedia.org]

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinkansen#Safety_record [wikipedia.org]

          http://www.treehugger.com/files/2011/03/earthquake-derail-japan-high-speed-trains.php [treehugger.com]

      • Even if a train stops on the tracks.

        At least they are supposed to.

        Even though this failure doesn't appear to have anything to do with the previous concerns about cost-cutting on track construction, it does show a huge screw-up that may be attributable to improper safety standards or not following them.

      • Yeah... let's see here. Massive earthquake that kills more than 18,000 people in Japan leading to Fukushima (where nobody died due to the meltdown) is incontrovertible proof that capitalism is a complete failure. Meanwhile, a single lightning strike leading to a derailment is an act of God beyond anyone's possible comprehension and China is perfect. Thanks for clearing that up for us.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Isn't there someone in charge of monitoring the position and speed of every train, and communicating to each train whether they should slow down or stop to avoid a collision? If so, that's the system that failed -- not the trains.

      • Re:Collision (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 23, 2011 @12:58PM (#36857522)

        The standard system for the US and, as far as I know for most of the world, is called "block signals". These red/amber/green lights show if a train is in the section of track ahead and has been used for over a hundred years. Have the designers in China abandoned this?

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Most high speed rail isn't suing this system, because at high speeds it's not sufficient.
          On the other hand, this was a 'normal' train, traveling at speeds where block signals are normally in use.
          With a power failure at night, a failed block signal might not be detectable though.
          In France the TGVs carry explosives (fireworks, basically) to put on the rails one kilometer ahead of a failed train, to warn the oncoming train of a problem. This requires getting out of the train and one kilometer ahead of it in ti

        • Re:Collision (Score:5, Insightful)

          by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @01:23PM (#36857678)

          Have the designers in China abandoned this?

          No, they just haven't copied it yet.

        • Re:Collision (Score:5, Informative)

          by Chep (25806) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @01:46PM (#36857806)
          you can't actually read the signals, when the train travels > 250km/h. Even in 1980, designers of the TGV (270 then, 320-350km/h now) knew this, and the signalling is done using what is called <i>cab-signal</i>, which puts the display within the cabin.

          Some slower but WAY busier lines also need to get away with the old block system, in order to reduce the spacing. In Paris, the two primary suburban lines (RER A and B) use what is called 'permissive' spacing, (SACEM on A, KVBP or KCVP on B), in order to reduce space between trains -- SACEM can space trains under 5 meters apart under stressed conditions.

          But the key point of these advanced signalling systems is that the train-spacing software MUST be perfect. Not just "bug-free, we tested and deployed and ITIL'd the thing to death" but "mathematically proven bug-free". And even that doesn't cut it. Read up on how the SACEM hardware works, for instance. Or on the "Methode B" used to design the SACEM and the SAET (the latter of which powers automatic lines such as M14 and now M1 in Paris. SAET can safely take even a 110 year-old manually driven train within the robotic shuttle traffic, and get everyone safe there).

          Back to China, perhaps the strike broke some communication line, making the position of the stopped train 'unknown'. But if that happened, someone much worse must have happened as well.

          Perhaps, by cutting corners everywhere, they've also cut on the provably bug-free programming which one MUST use to build the train-spacing software. THAT, if that happened, is criminal.

          Perhaps they've cut corners on brakes. Or whatever.

          Hopefully for them, that's a fixable bug....
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        Isn't there someone in charge of monitoring the position and speed of every train, and communicating to each train whether they should slow down or stop to avoid a collision? If so, that's the system that failed -- not the trains.

        There's an easy way to fix that. Strap a safety engineer, or politician who wants more and faster trains, to the front of every bullet train. I guarantee you that they will find ways to improve the safety and reporting systems.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by alen (225700)

      how come this never happens in the US? all our train accidents are caused by engineers texting their wives and girlfriends

      • by Keruo (771880)
        Mostly because there aren't trains which travel at/over 200mph in USA
        There are only ongoing plans to renovate rail sections to accomodate those speeds.
        • by phobos512 (766371)
          I know this is /. so you obviously didn't RTFA, but the articles pointed out that these were older D-series trains that only travel around 100 mph (the articles said they top out just shy of 100 mph).
      • Re:Collision (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Dachannien (617929) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @01:06PM (#36857566)

        Actually, it happened on Washington, DC's Metro system two years ago. A problem with a train proximity sensing system resulted in a failure to engage automatic braking on one train when it approached another train farther ahead that had broken down. In that case, there was evidence that the operator, shortly before her death, had attempted to stop her train manually, but didn't have enough advance warning to stop in time. Eight other people were killed, and in response, WMATA ordered operators to run their trains in manual mode at all times.

      • alot of them come from have a car on the tracks when the gates are down.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Riiiight, it was a "lightning strike" that caused the problems.

      Not like the Chinese would ever release false information to save face or anything, nope, they never do that.

    • Again, journalists have it wrong. The one and only bullet train that is in production in China, is in Shanghai. This train is made out of German technology, can reach 430 km, and links the city (Long Yang Lu station) center to the Pudong airport. Then you have "Gao Tie", the Chinese TGV. Such trains would be marked as "G" then a number. "Dong Chi" would be D, and they are all but bullet trains. How come the journalist wrote "bullet trains" for these "Dong Chi" is a mystery!!!
      • by leenks (906881)

        Mod parent up. This is the first factual comment in the discussion...

  • by vinng86 (1978262) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @12:34PM (#36857310)

    During the Shinkansen's 45-year, nearly 7 billion-passenger history, there have been no passenger fatalities due to derailments or collisions,[13] despite frequent earthquakes and typhoons.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinkansen#Safety_record [wikipedia.org]

    • During the Shinkansen's 45-year, nearly 7 billion-passenger history, there have been no passenger fatalities due to derailments or collisions,[13] despite frequent earthquakes and typhoons.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinkansen#Safety_record [wikipedia.org]

      Definitely a good comparison.

      This is obviously a big tragedy, many lives were lost. But it's hard not to see something symbolic in this as well - China's economy moving forward too fast, ignoring safety warnings, and ending in catastrophe. That last part hasn't happened yet, but the first has, and more and more people are starting to worry about some sort of bust. Hopefully that won't happen, but if it does, this train derailment may end up as a metaphor in the history books.

  • Lightning involved (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MagikSlinger (259969) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @12:36PM (#36857322) Homepage Journal
    I don't know if it is necessarily corner cutting, but one would have thought lightning protection would have been one of the obvious things they would have engineered. From the articles, the lightning strike disabled the train and the train behind slammed into it. Also, if a train is stalled on the track, one would think there would be someway of knowing; either through telemetry or the driver radioing "Help! My train's stuck!". So if so, why didn't the other train stop? Lots of questions... I wonder if we will ever truly learn the answers or will this become another of China's "let's sweep it under the carpet" moments?
    • "Train stopped ahead of your train involved." Braking, more relevant than lighting.
      • Thus my follow up: Why didn't the second train brake? Not enough lead time? Communication breakdown? Will we ever be allowed to know?
      • Automated control system and/or safety checks failure, most likely - at that speed manual braking is useless (by the time you have visual on the obstacle it's too late to brake). The automated control system should have detected that one train was no longer moving or no longer in contact and should have slowed down/halted all other trains on the same track approaching the area.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 23, 2011 @12:53PM (#36857478)

      It was proposed (by Siemens Signals gmbh) that a modified TVM430 system be used in China. This is what is used on the more modern TGV lines in France. It was rejected by the Chinese Railways as being too expensive so they came up with their own.
      The TVM430 uses a moving block system. This means that this accident could never have happened. This system leaves at least one complete signal section between trains. The sections are also long enough for a SPAD (signal passed at danger) that will cause an application of the brakes to AUTOMATICALLY happen to stop the train from well in excess of the normal line speed before it would slam into the back of the train that was stopped on the line.

      If my experience with the Chinese Bullet train lines is anything to go by, the phrase 'held together by duck tape' seems very apt.
      The trains themeselves might be good but the PW (Permanent Way) is very sub standard. The last time I travelled on one the ride quality remined me of the line from Euston to Rugby in the 1980's. Think bucking bronco.

      This was an accident waiting to happen.

      Anon, ex staffer with Westinghouse/Siemens Signal Systems (UK) but still employed in the Railway Business.

         

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by sjames (1099)

      More to the point, no matter the reason, a reasonable safety system wouldn't allow 2 trains to come together. That has been part of railroad design for over a century.

      • by bsane (148894)

        That has been part of railroad design for over a century.

        That explains why there have been 0 train collisions in the west for almost a hundred years!

        • by sjames (1099)

          There have been very few considering the amount of rail traffic, and it certainly takes a lot more than one train coming to an unplanned stop to cause it.

          Any that have happened eventually come down to understaffed and over cheaped maintenance.

    • the railway signal system should do something but the driver may be under presser to go as fast as they can and not stop.

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      When the train and track got struck it probably knocked out all power on the train. It may also have knocked out telemetry on the track. No power for the radio, no telemetry and the train just disappears from the control display. Even if they have a backup battery radio they have to find it, call in, identify their train, and identify their location. That takes time. In that time the train behind them could have been too close to stop.

      Passenger trains are not freight trains in that passenger trains are much

      • If losing contact causes a train to disappear from the control display then the system is broken by design.

      • How hard do you think it is to stop a powerless bullet train? I'm imagining that they have numerous power-assist and servo systems, pulling on the manual brake lever is probably an act of futility, as likely to stop the train by derailment as not.

    • by adolf (21054)

      Lightning "protection" is always engineered into projects of this scale, whatever type of project it may be. Much of it consists of good and pervasive grounding (which should be easy on a train, almost by default), along with transient voltage suppression (which generally relies on good grounding). Sometimes, more active elements are used (lightning rods, which is a whole school of practice unto itself).

      But, you know: Shit happens.

      As we say in the RF world: Lightning goes where it wants to.

      • As we say in the RF world: Lightning goes where it wants to.

        Interesting. So does that mean it is impossible to make something lightening strike proof? What I mean is that in any lighting protection system, there will always be some weird or unexpected failure mode that is not humanly possible to protect against?

        • by karnal (22275)

          The problem here is just like most other problems in the real world: Do you cover 90% of the cases for 10% of the "100% case" cost; or do you go higher?

          And even then, the 100% case doesn't exist but on paper.

        • by adolf (21054)

          Yes. Always.

  • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @12:44PM (#36857392) Homepage Journal

    My cynical nature seems to be not surprised about "that builders had ignored safety standards", in China.

    One thing that should be mentioned is looking at the photos of the Chinese bullet train, is that the design did not inspire itself on one of the key advantages of the French TGV. That advantage being that the bogies are between the carriages and not under each carriage. Apparently the French designed it that way because it reduces the scope of damage due to derailment. The TGV has derailed, but it always derails in a straight line.

    ref: Nova: Looking down the track at very fast trains [science.org.au]

    • by MORB (793798) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @01:06PM (#36857570)

      And it works incredibly well. The TGV had several high speed derailment that all caused only minor injuries.

      It includes the world's fastest derailment at 294kph (182mph) where only one person was slightly injured.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TGV_accidents [wikipedia.org]

    • Our bosses say, "We need 60 hours of work in the next three days" "we really don't want to burn out our employes so make sure we take care of them".

      They are in the clear-- it's just not possible to achieve the goals without working nights and weekends.

      I'm sure the chinese do the same thing.

      We want TOP quality in LESS time for NOT ENOUGH money.

      It's the usual "choose 2 of three option".

  • by quantumphaze (1245466) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @12:44PM (#36857400)

    At least 11 people have died and 89 people injured

    You would think this important information would be in the summary to give perspective on the disaster.

  • Not a "bullet" train (Score:3, Informative)

    by mrsam (12205) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @12:45PM (#36857402) Homepage

    From TFA:

    "D" trains are the first generation of bullet trains in China, with an average speed of just short of 100mph (160km/h).

    Feh. Amtrak, and even some commuter trains in the Northeast, routinely exceed 110-125mph.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      But is that "average speed" ?

    • by isorox (205688) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @01:09PM (#36857596) Homepage Journal

      From TFA:

      "D" trains are the first generation of bullet trains in China, with an average speed of just short of 100mph (160km/h).

      Feh. Amtrak, and even some commuter trains in the Northeast, routinely exceed 110-125mph.

      Commuter trains in the UK tend to go upto 110mph, but average nearer 50-60. Eurostar from London to Paris peaks at 186mph (186.1 according to the iphone gps), but only averages 136mph.

      The Acela Express might peak at 150, but it averages 70mph.

    • D is just the prefix of any long distance, high speed service in China, not a type of train. CRH1, the first generation of bullet trains in China can travel at up to 250kmh and frequently do.
  • by Arakageeta (671142) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @12:55PM (#36857500)

    The reports currently are that the train cars detailed because of a collision, not because they were simply going too fast and took a sharp turn on faulty rails. Can you really expect cars to remain on the tracks after a collision?

    • by ae1294 (1547521)

      The reports currently are that the train cars detailed because of a collision, not because they were simply going too fast and took a sharp turn on faulty rails. Can you really expect cars to remain on the tracks after a collision?

      If you use strong enough magnets...

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      No but I can expect a rail control system that prevents something as simple as a train running up the back of another train.

      Not a complex network with multiple tracks and one train switching to the wrong track. Not a case of a train colliding with another object on the track. Just one train moving on one track ran up the back of another train not moving on the same track.

  • Everyone knows lightning never strikes the same train twice.

  • by fche (36607) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @01:05PM (#36857556)

    No, a "retraction" means taking back, by the original commentators. In this case, some other official merely denied the claims of the whistleblower.

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday July 23, 2011 @01:44PM (#36857796) Homepage

    Hollysys [hollysys.com.sg] claims to be the main supplier of signalling and train protection equipment for China's high speed rail lines. There are two separate systems - classic track circuits, and a data link between units at the head and tail of each train to a train control center. Either is normally able to prevent collisions. However, in a power failure, the data link system would probably not be functioning. The track circuit system should continue to work on battery power, or, if that fails, indicate STOP.

    Track circuit failures resulting in a false proceed signal are rare, but have occurred. The WMATA transit crash in Washington, D.C. was due to a track circuit failure. The US Federal Railroad Administration keeps records of all reported false proceed signals. [ironwoodtech.com] There have been two recorded events in 10 years of false proceed indications due to lightning damage. [ironwoodtech.com]

  • I don't like the summary - from the article: A Chinese high-speed train derailed Saturday when it was hit by another express, state media said, throwing two carriages off a viaduct and killing at least 16 people.

    Still I don't understand all the details of the situation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by chrb (1083577)

      I don't like the summary - from the article: A Chinese high-speed train derailed Saturday when it was hit by another express, state media said, throwing two carriages off a viaduct and killing at least 16 people.

      When I wrote the summary a few hours ago the information regarding a lightning strike and collision was not available.

  • I am certainly glad that here in the United States of America, blessed by God and common sense, that we will never experience a tragedy of this magnitude. Thanks to our sensible legislators and their neverending compassion for the people whose livelihood depends on the exploration, excavation, processing, shipping, and selling of fossil fuels, we will never have to see one of these "bullet" trains derail in this country! Our citizens will remain safe! Why, the very name of these things, a "bullet" train, br

  • I see a flood of patronizing posts and many of them xenophobic. Look, I'm not crazy about the Chinese regime/economic system (or the US regime/economic system), but train accidents occur all the time and even in the most "superior" societies. Here are some derailments in the last decade involving injuries.

    Hatfield, UK, 2000, 4 dead, 70+ injured - exposed sloppiness in privatized infrastructure and poor oversight.
    Potters Bar, UK, 2002, 7 dead, 76 injured - poor maintenance.
    Waterfall, Australia, 2003, 7 dea

    • by ZigMonty (524212)

      Err... one of the incidents you mentioned occurred in china, and not only was it worse than the others put together, it doesn't even have a firm fatalities figure (70+, wtf kind of lack of transparency is that?).

      You're not exactly helping your point.

    • by A12m0v (1315511)

      Not a single one in Japan...

  • ... in addition to 10 people dieing in a train, another 200-300 died in other traffic accidents in China on the same day. If you ask me, I'd take the Chinese bullet train. (China has 1.3bn people and 7.6 out of 100.000 die each year in traffic accidents.)
    • About 10 people fall off the commuter trains and die every day in Bombay. They tend to ride outside the train cars standing on the window sills (toes going inward) and fingers clinging to the rain gutters while the electric poles carrying the overhead wires whizz by. Get tried, lean a little outward ... death by falling from the train. Trains don't stop, relatives have to pay a fine to get the bodies from the morgue. But usually they can bribe their way out of the fine. http://bombaystreets.com/archives/ta [bombaystreets.com]
      • > About 10 people fall off the commuter trains and die every day in Bombay. They tend to ride outside the train cars standing on the window sills (toes going inward) and fingers clinging to the rain gutters

        Shhhhh! Don't give those cheap bastards at Ryanair any ideas.
  • China has many different railway suppliers and systems. Does anyone know if it was CTCS the Chinese Train Control System used on this line? These systems are expensive so China developed their own version of the European train control system. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Train_Control_System [wikipedia.org]

    For high-speed trains they pass the signals too fast for the drivers to see so they rely on computer control. Trains are supposed to communicate so if one in front stops or slows the other behind it knows whe

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