I have been following the development of the D301 and D3115 bullet train crash in Wenzhou. Following segment is from CCTV of a panel criticizing how the Chinese government has handled the rescue and investigation so far. The burying of train D301’s head really doesn’t make sense. The panel raises quite a few issues and I can see the Ministry of Rail having a daunting task ahead in addressing these questions. It is not just the accident itself, but also the activities immediately follows will be scrutinized by the Chinese media. (Update: my translation below the video. Click ‘more.’ This is not a word for word translation, but my first pass at it. I am open to corrections. My vocabulary is not great, and since this is audio, I can’t use a dictionary. I believe the two panelists represent the present mood of the populace.)
Announcer: With 38 dead and over 100 injured in this tragic accident, why did the first train stop and why didn’t the second train stop in time? What kind of safety concerns does this incident bring us?
[Commercial about “今日观察”]
Host: It has been two days, and the 38 dead have yet to be fully identified. We are still waiting for the investigation results for why the second train ramming into the stopped train. There are many issues and questions still to be answered. Yesterday, the Ministry of Rail hosted a press conference to address these.
[Wang Yongping (王勇平), the spokesperson, acknolwedges the concerns of the public.]
On the question of burying D301’s head:
Wang Yongping: He was told near the rescue site, the scene is very complicated. There was a mud pit below, and in order to fasciliate rescue activities around that area, they decided to bury it there to help prop up other structures.
Presently, this is how they explain it.
So, do you believe it?
I believed it.
Announcer: The blackbox has been recovered and when investigation is complete, the public will be informed right away.
[Announcer then describes what transpired during the acciddent using computer animation.]
Announcer: After the collision, the cars that fell off the via duct piled on top of each other. Another car dangling vertically.
[Announcer then says Wenzhou area hospitals mobilized to treat injured and people volunteering to donate blood. Subsegment about the blood drive.]
Announcer: A two year old child was found on July 24th afternoon around 5:20pm at the crash site and rescued.
Announcer: Rescue, clean up, and restoration ocurred quickly and traffic was restored. (I have a hard time understanding this section, so I am paraphrasing.)
Host (at 5:00 mark in video): We saw 24 or so hours after the incident, the Ministry of Rail held a press conference. Spokesperson Wang Yongping’s remarks represented the ministry’s apology.
In explaining the burying of the D301’s head, he said afterwards, “I believe it. Do you believe it?” Why was he concerned with whether people believe it or not? How come there is such a concern?
Panelist 1: The purpose of this press conference is to answer questions, turning question marks into periods. Impossible and questions in fact raise even more questions.
Most simple questions is what is the body count and of those harmed.
The Ministry of Rail has announced they will publish the names later, but what about the concern of the people?
It is the responsibility of the ministry to compile list of deaths, injured, or missing. There is no reason to wait to publish such lists.
Now, families and loved ones are relying on the Internet to ask people to relay words on the whereabouts of people.
Panelist 2: On burying the D301’s head, the head is primary evidence in the investigation of this crash.
Before the investigation is concluded, we have not ruled out whether the train itself had problems.
It is in our law, for severe accidents like this, the scene must be strictly protected until root-cause is determined.
We have heard the spokesperson said in order to fascilitate rescue, they burried the train’s head.
After examining the train, there could be more questions.
One natural concern that I have is – are there still people inside the train head?
What about the luggage of the passengers (whether belonging to the dead or those alive)?
They said there weren’t any bodies in it. But we also know after the rescue was supposedly over, we found a young girl.
We have many questions now that shouldn’t be questions to begin with (implying if things were done more properly).
We see that the federal government is extremely concerned about the proper handling of this accident.
A Shanghai rail official was sacked. Now that we are investigating his background, we know he was an official in 2008. (I couldn’t fully understand what his responsibilities were then, but the panelist is linking him to that earlier accident.)
Panelist 1: Perhaps the burying of the train head has really good reason. But we don’t know. They had so many equipment on hand, so we naturally wonder why not bury one of them instead?
You announced the rescue is over and during the cleanup you suddenly discover a two year-old girl.
We now know the father took her to ride the bullet train for the first time. He even sent an Weibo saying taking her to Hanzhou.
Now we know both of her parents died.
Her survival was purely based on her will. (Not sure ‘will’ is the right word, my vocabulary is not so good.)
In the earthquake experience, we know that rescue efforts should be given 72 hours. But, 72 hours have not passed.
In hurrying to open traffic on that line, are we not giving life a chance?
Host: We want to know what caused the accident. We are concerned with how the subsequent activities are conducted. Let’s here what an expert says.
Expert: The trains have counter-measures for thunderstorms. We don’t know the investigation results yet. If the lightning is strong, the train can lose drive. It depends on what parts are impacted. For a catastrophe to occur, many factors will need to be lined up.
I hope we learn from our tragedies.
As in my previous posts, China sets the priorities wrong. It is great to be #1, but we have to consider many other issues like safety, quality control, image, maintenance, pollution… You do not get promoted or a medal for doing the above, but some could lose his/her job if something goes wrong.
There are so many past examples. If we never learn, we will never advance. Hope it is a wake up call. If we prepare for the worst to minimize accidents, we should give pad our shoulder for doing a great job.
Editor, there is no Edit function.
It’s always a judgment call on what to prioritize. It’s easy in the aftermath to say “the old priorities were wrong”.
This article carries a fairly reasonable point that caution and slowness don’t necessarily translate into safety and quality.
Quality must be based upon DATA. MORE data gives you more information about how to improve quality and safety.
And you can’t get data by slow pace. You have to keep trying and keep gathering data.
Especially when something is brand new, there are not enough data, the risk is always high, but you have to keep gathering data as you go along.
Some problems don’t show up until there is a big enough “mass” of data.
For example, When the automobile was invented, very few people used them on the road, and there were almost no traffic laws.
It wasn’t until there were sufficiently high number of automobiles on the road, then there began major automobile accidents, and that lead to reexamination of data, and the promulgation of modern traffic laws.
In this case, Japan’s safety record is actually little use for China, since they simply don’t have enough failure data to actually help China’s situations.
Germany’s failures are more of interests for China, because they experienced numerous HSR failures. But IN their entire record, there have never been an incident involving “lightning” power failure. (Nor has Japan’s record show any such problems).
As I said, some problems are brand new, and specific to China’s systems.
It’s pointless to say “would have” “should have”, because until you have enough data, new problems will always come up.
(Japan for example, are now retrofitting their HSR with additional safety devices, because there as a serious derailment during an earthquake, even though there were no deaths. They wouldn’t have done it, unless that actually saw the derailment. AND THEY GOT LUCKY on no deaths for that derailment!!! It could have EASILY been many deaths like the German HSR derailments, highest of which was at over 100 dead!!!) So yes, sometimes it is LUCK!!
Now, all that said, I’m all for safety and quality. (I was a Quality and Reliability Engineer for 12 years). But there is ABSOLUTELY no way to plan for every possible scenario of failures. IMPOSSIBLE! NOT FOR ALL THE MONEY in the world!!
EVERY engineering choice will cause potential risks and unintended possibility of failures! That’s as fundamental as Entropy, Chaos, Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion!!
I agree with TonyP4 with this. This incident should be a wakeup call, and considering the central government got involved, perhaps it is a good sign. In the past accidents involving Trains, not much happened.
There’s always good and bad on how China built its HSR. It was built quickly, but perhaps it is too much too fast, thus there might be issues with training and testing of this HSR. There are many companies who are involved building this HSR, from Train manufacturers, automation technologies, software, etc and perhaps there is an issue on making everything work together? If last Saturday’s incident was caused by thunder, how well can they handle other incidents including snowstorms, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods and even terrorist attack? Another issue to be addressed is the power issue stalling trains and how redundant are their safety systems are.
Charles Liu says
On Baidu’s train wreck speical there are some coverage on the home-grown safety monitoring system suffering multiple points of failure:
Charles Liu says
More on the companies involved. The maker of the automated monitoring system, Casco, is a joint venture between China Rail Signal and Alstom (manufacturer of the TGV and Eurostar).
Sorry for the inconvenience. I disabled the comment edit plug-in. I suspect it was contributing towards articles being misdiagnosed by our spam filter as spams.
I’ve been monitoring our spam queue the last few days, and I think that plug-in was likely it. Once the author of that plug-in fixes it, we’ll re-enable the comment editing feature.
Email me or Allen if you want us to take down a comment you’d rather re-post. For you, we don’t mind.
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I have now posted my translation of the CCTV panel discussion criticizing the handling of this accident.
yinyang and Allen, thanks.
My friend told me Babylon translator is one of the best. I believe there is a free version on-line. Try google it. The translation may not be perfect, but it would save you some time.
For me, there is no big deal with or without the Edit function. I just try to say some of my grammatical errors are not totally my fault. Have a great day!
A genius always minimizes accidents.
A smart man always fixes after the accidents happen.
An idiot blames the accidents on someone else and never fixes the problem.
CCTV Reports Railroad Ministry never stopped rescue efforts.
Just as a perspective on the current theory of the train collision:
This was actually the 1st time lightning struck the signalling system at a train station, (especially considering the system is a brand new design).
However, now there appeared there was a similar incident of lightning strike on a train station, causing system breakdown, (although not specifically a signalling system).
IN FRANCE on July 3, 2010:
Thousands of travelers in France were stranded after lightning shut down a main train station on Saturday, the first day of the summer holiday for students.
Lightening struck an electrical facility in Bretigny-sur-Orge, on the outskirts of Paris, forcing the closure of the Austerlitz station and affecting 40,000 travelers, a French National Railway official told CNN.
However, traffic at Austerlitz station had resumed as of 6 p.m. (noon ET), CNN affiliate BFM reported, citing officials with railway agency. Electronic repairs on the railway had been completed by the evening, and traffic was expected to run smoothly by Sunday.
*What does this mean?
Charles stated earlier, “The maker of the automated monitoring system, Casco, is a joint venture between China Rail Signal and Alstom (manufacturer of the TGV and Eurostar).”
Could it be that the design flaw is also in the European train stations?
Another one in UK 2005
Another in Holland, ALSO July 2010.