Investigators looking into the train crash in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province a month ago have once again blamed human error, despite recent media reports exposing a slew of quality problems that may have been overlooked.
“We have analyzed the black boxes of the two bullet trains and questioned relevant personnel. We have collected a large amount of valuable evidence,” Huang Yi, a spokesman of the State Administration of Work Safety, told the Xinhua News Agency.
“We maintain our initial findings that an improperly designed signal system failed after being hit by lightning, and that management loopholes made a quick response to the problem impossible,” Huang said.
“The accident shouldn’t have happened and was totally avoidable. After completing reports on the causes, we will determine liabilities, and a final report will be submitted to the State Council in September,” he added.
The ministry is to identify the individual or business responsible for the crash, he said.
Three railway officials were removed from their posts following the crash, Xinhua reported.
Huang’s remarks came after a report by Caixin Century magazine, which cited a flaw detection report as saying that before the Wenzhou train crash, workers in Jinan, Shandong Province had detected a cracked wheel axle on a CRH380BL train operating on the country’s high-speed rail network.
The crack was about 7.1 millimeters long and 2.4 millimeters wide, far exceeding the 2 millimeter benchmark for replacement.
Caixin said that railway authorities did not publicize the findings and that the train continued to run after the axle was replaced. Furthermore, the train had been running less than two weeks when the crack was detected, ruling out the possibility of wear and tear.
The provider of the wheel set is Zhibo Lucchini Railway Equipment, a Shanxi-based Sino-Italian joint venture, which dominated the market before the Wenzhou accident, Caixin reported.
The owner of the company is Ding Shumiao, a businesswoman currently under investigation for bribing Liu Zhijun, who headed up the Ministry of Railways (MOR) before being sacked for corruption in February.
On Sunday, China CNR Corporation Ltd, the second-largest train manufacturer in the country, denied the alleged quality problems on its high-speed train wheel axles.
On August 11, the company decided to recall 54 CRH380BL trains running on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway after a series of delays, the first such recalls in China.
However, it insisted that the CRH380BL trains had traveled a total 6.8 million kilometers as of August 16 without changing a single wheel axle.
Instead, it blamed faulty hot wheel detection sensors, saying 70 percent of the problems had come from sub-parts provided from subcontractors.
China CNR, listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, continued its month-long stumble on Monday closing at 4.58 with a 1.72 percent single day drop.
Wang Mengshu, a professor with Beijing Jiaotong University and a leading expert in the probe team for the Wenzhou crash, said the Caixin report needed verification.
“Caixin said that the crack was found by using ultrasonic detectors, but such tests can be compromised by background traces. The signal test alone is not conclusive,” Wang told the Global Times.
He agreed with Huang that human errors and management loopholes had been the major cause of the Wenzhou accident.
However, Caixin reported that the crack problem was not a stand-alone case.
Technicians with Beijing Sheenline Technology, which specialized in such detection devices, told the magazine that another cracked wheel axle was found in June.
Trains with such problems would derail more easily, but the MOR had not reported the findings to the State Council, the report added.
Shanghai railway officials said they would continue to cancel bullet train services and reduce ticket prices due to the lower speeds ordered by the MOR since the crash.
Huang Shaojie contributed to this story