Even China's own railway operator condemns CSR Sifang

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By: 永久浪客/Forever Vagabond

At the end of last year, the China Railway Corporation (CRC) (中国铁路总公司) held a company’s conference to discuss train safety issues. CRC observed that the trains which they are operating continue to be fault-prone.

Fault incidents continue unabated, posing threats to passenger safety. CRC concluded that the decline in quality of the manufactured trains from the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) (中国中车股份有限公司) is the main cause (http://companies.caixin.com/2016-03-22/100922969.html).

CRC is the national railway operator of China, under the regulation of the Ministry of Transport and the State Railways Administration. It operates rail commuter and freight transport services via several subsidiaries.

CRRC, on the other hand, is China’s state owned rolling stock manufacturer. It has some 190,000 employees and is the largest rolling stock manufacturer in China as well as in the world. One of its subsidiaries is none other than CSR Sifang, which has been contracted to build trains for SMRT.

CRC blames CRRC

At the conference, CRC noted that the rail system experienced a total of 1,710 cases of train incidents in 2015. Of these, 210 cases were due to negligence during operations but 1,500 cases were due to malfunctions in trains.

The number of malfunctions in trains in 2015 increased steeply from 2014’s figure by 45%. CRC put the blame with regard to the rise in number of malfunction cases on falling quality standards of trains made by CRRC, China’s main train manufacturer.

The CRC’s management also said that its local offices should take some responsibility because they overlooked quality issues when making the train purchases and did not tell headquarters even after they discovered safety risks.

CRC has instructed its local offices to establish a proper system for checking the quality of trains, and that it plans to seek compensation from CRRC for “serious accidents” that are due to the poor quality of the manufactured trains.

CRC specifically mentions CSR Sifang, subsidiary of CRRC

At the conference, CRC felt that one of the reasons for the declining quality is because of the rush to deliver the new trains. Some of the CRRC’s factories, in the words of CRC, start to “not wash the carrots before selling them” (“萝卜快了不洗泥”).

A CRC staff disclosed to the media that during the 2nd quarter of 2015, a newly built CRH380A train from CSR Sifang’s factory had already encountered traction motor issues when it was en-route to be delivered to CRC. In the end it had to be towed back to the factory for repairs when it just came out of the line from the factory.

The most prominent problem of all happens on CRH1 trains from CSR Sifang. It has multiple problems with its bearings for years, which the staff said CSR Sifang did not fix. In 2015, 17 incidents were due to the bearing issues. In addition, problems like accessories breaking off, fire and break failures still occur frequently.

But CRC also acknowledged that its operating subsidiaries may have management irregularities too. For example, the operating units may not be strict in their supervision, hiding quality problems from top management and not meeting operating standards.

In the case of LTA buying C151A trains made by CSR Sifang, it’s not known how much time LTA spent on checking the quality of those trains. Rather than being defensive, perhaps LTA should send its CEO, RADM (NS) Chew Men Leong, to liase with CRC management so as to understand the kind of problems CRC is facing with CSR Sifang everyday.