Monday, October 10, 2011

China Bullet Trains Trip on Technology

Bullet Train
China celebrated its bullet trains as the home-grown pride of a nation: a rail system faster and more advanced than any other, showcasing superior Chinese technology.

However, China's high-speed rail network was in fact built with imported components—including signaling-system parts designed to prevent train collisions—that local engineers couldn't fully understand, according to a review of corporate documents and interviews with more than a dozen rail executives inside and outside China.

During a late July lightning storm, two of China's bullet trains collided in the eastern city of Wenzhou, killing 40 people and injuring nearly 200 in one of the world's worst high-speed passenger-rail accidents. China's government initially blamed flawed signaling and human error. It recently postponed public release of its crash findings.

The precise cause of the disaster remains uncertain, so there is no way to know what role, if any, the signaling assembly may have played.

An examination of China's use of foreign technology in its bullet-train signal systems highlights deep international distrust over China's industrial model, including weak intellectual-property protections, which can complicate efforts to acquire state-of-the-art technology.

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