Thursday, February 24, 2011
Obama's Plans for High-Speed Rail Sounds More Like a Simpsons Episode: China's High-Speed Rail System is a Disaster Waiting to Happen
|China's high-speed rail has something|
in common with Springfield's Monorail.
The United States has got to outdo the Chinese on high-speed rail, or we are an inferior country according to Obama. So Obama is pushing to spend billions of tax dollars to emulate the Chinese high-speed rail system. Is Obama telling you the truth? Is the high-speed rail system really a superior transportation technology, or is it like most things with the "Made in China" label--JUNK?
A story called "'Judgement Day' Fears for High-Speed Rail Tracks" published in the South China Morning Post fears that China may have cut corners in developing their high-speed rail and the results could be disastrous. Of course, in a country that disposes of female babies based on gender alone, you can't expect a focus on safety to ensure lives are saved in case of an accident, can you?
Construction of the mainland's massive high-speed rail network is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success.
The breakneck speed at which track is being laid means engineers are likely to have to sacrifice quality for quantity on the lines' foundations which could ultimately halve their lifespan.
The problem lies in the use of high-quality fly ash, a fine powder chemically identical to volcanic ash, collected from the chimneys of coal-fired power plants. When mixed with cement and gravel, it can give the tracks' concrete base a lifespan of 100 years.
According to a study by the First Survey and Design Institute of China Railways in 2008, coal-fired power plants on the mainland could produce enough high-quality fly ash for the construction of 100 kilometres of high-speed railway tracks a year.
But more than 1,500 kilometres of track have been laid annually for the past five years. This year 4,500 kilometres of track will be laid with the completion of the world's longest high-speed railway line, between Beijing and Shanghai. Fly ash required for that 1,318-kilometre line would be more than that produced by all the coal-fired power plants in the world.
Enter low-quality fly ash.
Professor Wang Lan , lead scientist at the Cement and New Building Materials Research Institute under the China Building Materials Academy, said that given poor quality control on the mainland, the use of low-quality fly ash, and other low-grade construction materials, was "almost inevitable" in high-speed railway construction.
And that could have fatal consequences, Wang said. With a catalytic function almost opposite to that of good fly ash, the bad fly ash could significantly weaken railway line foundations and shorten a railway's lifespan by about half. That would mean China's high-speed rail tracks would last only 50 years.
Zhu Ming - a researcher at Southwest Jiaotoing University's School of Civil Engineering who experimented with fly ash at a Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway construction site last year - was even more pessimistic.
The use of low-quality fly ash would threaten the safety of rail passengers and "judgment day" might come sooner than expected, Zhu said.
"Quality problems with Chinese high-speed railways will arise in five years," he said. "I'm not talking about small problems, but big problems. Small problems such as occasional cracks and slips that delay trains for hours have already occurred. Big problems that will postpone an entire line for days, if not weeks, will come soon.
"When that happens, the miracle of Chinese high-speed rail will be reduced to dust."
Oh, but this is what Dear Leader Obama wants to give the United States--a miracle reduced to dust.
It's not like this news is limited to China. The New York Times is reporting on the coming disaster that is China's high-speed rail.
In his seven years as chief of the Chinese Railways Ministry, Liu Zhijun built a commercial and political colossus that spanned continents and elevated the lowly train to a national symbol of pride and technological prowess.
His abrupt sacking by the Communist Party is casting that empire in a decidedly different light, raising doubts not only about Mr. Liu’s stewardship and the corruption that dogs China’s vast public-works projects, but also, perhaps, the safety, financial soundness and long-term viability of a rail system that has captured the world’s attention.
Mr. Liu, 58, was fired Saturday and is being investigated by the party’s disciplinary committee for “severe violations of discipline,” a euphemism for corruption. His high government rank — minister-level officials are rarely fired under such a cloud — hints at far deeper dissatisfaction with one of China’s most publicized and sweeping domestic initiatives.
Until last week, Mr. Liu had led China’s program to lace the nation with nearly 8,100 miles of high-speed rail lines and to build more than 11,000 miles of traditional railroad lines. The sheer size and cost of the endeavor — the investment has been estimated at $750 billion, some $395 billion for high-speed rail alone — has led experts to compare it to the transcontinental railroad that opened the American West.
President Obama hailed China’s program in his State of the Union address and called for the United States to move quickly on high-speed rail plans that had been repeatedly delayed by budget concerns and political infighting.
There are some clues in top officials’ public statements since the scandal broke. Speaking on Monday in Beijing, the official who is believed to be the country’s new railways chief, Sheng Guangzu, said the ministry would “place quality and safety at the center of construction projects.” For good measure, he added that safety was his highest priority.
The statement underscored concerns in some quarters that Mr. Liu cut corners in his all-out push to extend the rail system and to keep the project on schedule and within its budget. No accidents have been reported on the high-speed rail network, but reports suggest that construction quality may at times have been shoddy.
Analysts have warned that the construction schedule ordered by Mr. Liu threatens to push the ministry’s debt — already $170 billion last fall — to an unsustainable level.
A 2010 analysis by China Minsheng Bank, reported this week by Caijing, found that the ministry’s debts equaled 56 percent of its assets and could reach $455 billion, or 70 percent of its assets, by 2020. In his last months on the job, Mr. Liu had begun an aggressive program to deal with the debt by selling stakes in the railway to investors like large state-controlled banks.
The Minsheng report suggested that the high-speed network may remain a money-loser for the next 20 years, despite heavy use. Ticket prices — several times those for a conventional train — have led to a backlash among some Chinese.
The timing of Mr. Liu’s dismissal may be significant: He was fired at the end of China’s Lunar New Year holiday, when trains are jammed, tickets are scalped at exorbitant prices and passengers are angriest.
The Communist Party has long worried that corruption may undermine its credibility with the public. But outside analysts agree that high-level officials are seldom sacked for corruption alone, in part because kickbacks, favoritism and other below-board activities are so common.
Russell Leigh Moses, a scholar of the Chinese leadership, said that Mr. Liu’s dismissal could signal disquiet over whether expansion of the rail system had gone too far, too fast.
“You don’t take someone down at that level of status unless they’ve done something really egregious,” said Mr. Moses, who works in Beijing. “I don’t know whether it’s politics or policy. But I wouldn’t rule out the second.”
Yet, Obama will continue to push for high-speed rail in America even knowing the financial disaster it is in China. Obama is starting to remind me of an episode of the Simpsons.
Posted by Bungalow Bill
"Clay, I am proud to have made your acquaintance, and also know you are a committed patriot who's not just messin' around! Thank you!" - Doug Burlison, Springfield, MO City Councilman
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