70% of Chinese train components fail safety standards, China’s railway operator reveals

An original version of this article appeared in Hong Kong Free Press on August 7, 2015:

Over 70 percent of train parts produced by 10 Chinese manufacturers were found to fail safety tests, as concerns arise over the safety of Chinese trains that will enter service in Hong Kong starting from 2018.

The China Railway Corporation, the country’s national railway operator, examined 14 train components used in braking cargo trains in its latest quality check. It found that only four samples, or 28.6 percent of the components, were in compliance with the safety standards.

A Chinese cargo train. Photo: nipic.com.

Caixin reported that the components tested were “composite brake shoes,” an essential part used for stopping the train. Components that failed to meet the safety standards would increase the braking distance of the locomotive, a potential safety threat on the tracks.

The news comes as Hong Kong’s MTR corporation earlier ordered 93 new eight-car trains produced by a Shandong-based train producer. The trains are set to replace the current UK-made fleet starting from 2018, and will run on four rail lines in Hong Kong.

mtr new train virtual image

Virtual image of new trains ordered by the MTR. Photo: MTR.

Responding to concerns over the safety of trains made in China, the MTR Corporation told HKFP that all brake pads used in Chinese-made passenger trains “are manufactured in Germany and Australia.”

It added that MTR staff would be “stationed full-time at the factory to quality-assure the manufacturing and assembly process.” Testing and commissioning would be conducted before the trains enter service, said the spokesperson.

iCable news quoted a Chinese railway expert as saying that all the trains currently running on Chinese tracks are safe. He said the 30 percent passing rate was unacceptable, but emphasised that the problematic parts tested were only used in cargo trains.

The MTR first introduced Chinese-made trains to its fleet in 2011. The locomotives were assembled by a subsidiary of the China CNR Corporation, and are currently running on the Kwun Tong and Tseung Kwan O lines.

china train MTR

Chinese-made MTR train running on Kwun Tong line. Photo: WikiMedia.

Caixin reported that the Beijing Railway Bureau, Zhengzhou Railway Bureau and the Aviation Industry Corporation of China were among the 10 corporations with poor test results. China Railway has ordered the companies to repair the problematic parts. All railway operators in China are currently banned from purchasing the unsafe train components from the 10 companies.

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