Over the past few years, China has consistently and rightfully flaunted their train manufacturing technology around the world. From successfully connecting Western China to Iran, as well as Beijing to Hong Kong, to building a second train connecting Tibet to the rest of China, they have gained their bragging rights and lead the world with over 19,000 kilometers of track.
However, China’s track record is becoming less pristine anymore. It was recently revealed that on June 12th, 35 Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) trains in Singapore manufactured by Shandong-based CSR Sifang Locomotive & Rolling Stock Company Ltd had cracks on the bodies and key structural parts and were shipped back to Qingdao to be repaired, FactWire reports. Both Singapore and China attempted to hush up the situation.
At around 1 a.m., trucks carrying defective trains were escorted by police from Bishan Depot to Jurong Port. They were loaded on a cargo ship for a 10-day journey to CSR Sifang’s factory located back in China. Thank god there were no cracks in the ship.
The trains are part of SMRT’s C151A series. In 2009, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority awarded a 368 million SGD (1.8 billion RMB) contract, for 22 trains, to a consortium made up of Kawasaki Heavy Industries Rolling Stock Company, its Singaporean subsidiary, and CSR Sifang. These trains were put into service in 2011 and the government ordered 13 more trains from the consortium.
Chairman of CSR Corporation Limited Zhao Xiaogang stated in 2009 that after an evaluation conducted by the Singaporean authorities, they chose the consortium as the manufacturer because product quality is important. Well, joke’s on them.
Though it seems like a large sum of money, it averages out to a little less than 14 million RMB per train, which is not a lot for a train in the industry. After all, you get what you paid for.
Right after they began service, the trains showed signs of faulty design. The glass beside the passenger seat shattered multiple times and a Chinese-made uninterruptible power supply battery exploded during repair. Afterwards, SMRT decreased the use of C151A trains and delayed payment for the extra order of trains.
To exacerbate the situation, two years later, cracks were found on the sub-floor and bolster function parts connecting the car body to the bogie.
Despite the fact these trains were built through a partnership between Kawasaki Heavy Industries and CSR Sifang, there is a clear indication where the malfunction comes from. Kawasaki Heavy Industries manufactured the C151 series, which preceded the C151A, starting in the 1980s and there have been no cracks found in that time.
Sources from China told FactWire that some C151A trains had aluminum impurities in the train, probably causing cracks.
A former SMRT worker said, “[Chinese-made trains] are very cheap. How can you have [something] that is very good and pay a very cheap price? So this is [the] trade-off.”
“It’s not a complete failure you know, it’s [that] the [train’s] life is so much shorter, maybe about half [of the normal lifespan].”
SMRT, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority, and CRRC Corporation Limited, CSR Sifang’s parent company, all haven’t commented on the situation.
The same manufacturer also supplied 9 trains for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XLR) and 93 trains for 4 lines in Hong Kong’s MRT. The 93 trains average out to 12 million RMB, which is even less than SMRT C151A’s 14 million RMB.
When the trains in Hong Kong are put to service, they will make up of 70% of all urban line trains, according to MTR Corporation’s 2015 business overview. Yikes.
SMRT has now released a statement regarding the story:
“Less than forthcoming, SMRT. It’s only when news was leaked in Hong Kong and local news blogs picked up on it, then these information was disclosed,” reads the top-voted comment on the Facebook post.
By Sarah Lin
[Images via FactWire]