China says 12 punished for Shanghai subway crash

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY::Three managers at Shanghai Shentong Metro were fired for negligence and failure to provide subway operators with adequate training


Sat, Oct 08, 2011 - Page 5

A subway crash in Shanghai that injured nearly 300 people resulted from negligence, inadequate training and faulty installation of backup power systems, the city’s safety agency said. It announced penalties for a dozen subway employees.

Three train operators were removed from their posts, the Shanghai Administration of Work Safety said on Thursday, while nine other subway system managers and workers were also punished for the crash of one subway train into another on Sept. 27.

A loss of power on the subway line during repairs caused the signal system to fail and dispatchers then issued faulty orders that caused one train to rear end another as it sat still on the tracks in an area near the city’s scenic Yuyuan Garden.

The affected line — Line 10 — operated by Shanghai Shentong Metro Group, is one of Shanghai’s newest and most modern.

The subway crash was a shock for Shanghai, a city of 23 million that had its entire transport infrastructure — roads, airports, ports, tunnels and subways — upgraded ahead of the World Expo last year. The accident occurred just two months after two bullet trains in Zhejiang Province crashed, killing 40 people and injuring 177. The July 23 accident exposed festering resentments over the huge costs of the country’s massive buildup of its rail system, especially its high-speed lines.

The report said Shanghai Shentong’s first mistake was in authorizing repair work at a station without having a backup plan in case it disrupted the power supply. The repair work caused a loss of power to the station that led the signaling system to fail.

Several managers were held responsible for negligence and failure to provide adequate training to subway operators.

The report also cited problems with installation of backup power from uninterrupted power supply (UPS) equipment, which should have kicked in to prevent any lengthy power outages. With the power out, subway operators then chose to direct trains on Line 10 via phone instead of electronic signals and ordered a train to stop in a tunnel between two stations.

About half an hour later, another train started out from one of the stations and headed toward the halted train at a speed of up to 54kph, until the driver saw the stationary train and tried to brake. It crashed into the stationary train at a speed of 35kph.

Although the train was crowded at the mid-afternoon time of the crash, the relatively slow speed helped to minimize injuries, most of which were light and not life-threatening, according to city officials.

High-tech automatic train protection systems are designed to improve safety while allowing more trains to travel within shorter intervals. Normally such systems prevent crashes by controlling train speeds and signaling the presence of any other trains on the line.

The supplier of the signaling system for the line — a joint venture between a local company and France’s Alstom SA — denied earlier claims by the subway operator that its equipment malfunctioned, saying the crash had nothing to do with its system.

The three employees who were removed from their posts were Zhu Limin (朱利敏), vice director of Shentong Group’s dispatching department, and Tang Zhihua (湯志華) and Kuo Kang (闊康), the chief and vice manager of Line 10’s dispatching center.