So say the editors of the Washington Post:
FOR MONTHS, it has been increasingly obvious that China’s shiny new high-speed rail system is not the triumph of national planning that Beijing or Western admirers claimed. The Chinese government this year fired top rail officials for alleged wrongdoing , an implicit recognition that corruption and debt plague the project. Many of those who questioned the economics of high-speed rail in China also argued that authorities were cutting corners on safety in their rush to build the world’s largest bullet-train network. Those accusations, too, received tacit confirmation when China announced in April that it would cut the trains’ top speed by 30 miles per hour.
Too late: Last Saturday, China’s high-speed rail produced the long-feared catastrophe. Two bullet trains collided in the eastern province of Zhejiang, leaving more than three dozen people dead and scores more injured.
The terrible collision is not only a human tragedy but also a major blow to the credibility of the communist government, which had hoped to sell its trains to other countries – including the United States. Authorities blamed a lightning strike for causing one train to stall out, after which a second train rear-ended it, causing four cars to plunge off a bridge. Unlikely on its face, this scenario does not explain why no fail-safe mechanism halted the second train after the first stopped. That’s what would have happened in Japan, where bullet trains have operated for half a century with zero fatalities.
Shall we continue the list?