Shanghai Metro Crash Crumples Confidence In Dash For Growth

The Shanghai Metro crash, which injured 270 passengers, shares a couple of things in common with the deadly Wenzhou high-speed train crash in July: signal failure followed by human operational failure; and public anger at the accident from people who are increasingly coming to see that too many corners have been cut in the infrastructure projects that are underpinning China’s dash for growth. The trust and respect in government’s ability to keep citizens safe and healthy, on which the Party’s legitimacy to monopoly rule in part rests, is already fragile, and gets evermore so with every rail accident (and there have been many), toxic spill and corrupt local land deal.

Footnote: The signalling system that failed on the Shanghai Metro came from Casco, a JV between China Railway Signal & Communication Corp. (CRSC) and France’s Alstom. The same company was the general contractor for the signalling systems at Wenzhou though different systems were used. We should also note that in the case of the Shanghai accident it is unclear at this stage whether a signal component failed or the system lost power because of an electrical outage. Also, Alstom and Casco have both formally denied that their equipment was “the root cause” of the Wenzhou crash, although another CRSC subsidiary has said it would accept responsibility.

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