China to Launch 250 MPH Train, Posing Dangers

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China says it will have a 250-mile per hour train system in place within three years. By comparison, most U.S. trains travel at speeds well under 70 mph. It is an example of Chinese ingenuity, the government’s willingness to invest in infrastructure and its attempts to cut air pollution caused by transportation. However, the plans come with some safety risks.

According to the People’s Daily:

 China is working on next-generation bullet trains with a maximum operational speed of 400 kilometers per hour that will be ready by 2020 for markets linked to the Belt and Road Initiative’s vision, the country’s top railway vehicle maker said.

“We will apply new materials in the research and production of the future high-speed trains, such as carbon fiber and aluminum alloy, which will help reduce weight and enhance energy efficiency,” said Qiao Feng, a senior engineer at the CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co, a subsidiary of China Railway Rolling Stock Corp.

The new trains will be available in Belt and Road Initiative markets, and will be able to reduce per passenger energy consumption by 10 percent compared with high-speed trains that can run 350 km/h. The CRRC will be the manufacturer and exporter, according to Qiao.

China’s worst high-speed rail disaster occurred in 2011. And since it was covered up for a time, it is possible there have been others. A crash of two trains in Wenzhou killed 40 passengers.

According an article posted by the Caixin news agency last year:

Disputes between the two agencies running the trains in China over how to classify and publish details on fatal railroad incidents has kept reports on some fatal accidents last year from surfacing, people close to the matter say.

Several employees of China Railway Corp. (CRC), which builds the country’s railroad networks and manages their commercial operations, said they have received reports about several serious accidents that involved three to 10 deaths last year.

None of the reports have been made public, which would contradict new rules from the National Railway Administration, the agency established in 2013 to handle the non-commercial affairs of the country’s railroad network after the Ministry of Railways was dissolved.

The sources Caixin spoke to did not say how many accidents occurred or how many people died in total.

High-speed trains come with economic benefits. They also come with what appear to be substantial risks.