Archive for March, 2012

A crack in progress

March 15, 2012

And hot off the back of yesterday’s discussion of rapid upgrading of infrastructure leading to collapse and failure, a 108 million yuan bridge (or $17.5 million) bridge across the Lianshui river in Hunan province has ‘snapped’. While the cause is being investigated (translation: those responsible are being sent to re-education camps), it’s believed that the cause of the breakage was due to premature removal of scaffolding.

All I know is, better now while it’s half constructed than when busloads of people are streaming across it.

I can understand why China is rushing to play catch-up, but ultimately, what is the cost? While travelling around, particularly over bridges or things that could ‘fall’, (aka chairlifts), shoddy construction was always at the back of my mind, as incidents such as this bridge cracking are a somewhat frequent occurrence.

I remember setting off up the side of the mountain in Xihui park, Wuxi and distinctly looking at the massive gear which drove the chairlift. Around the gear were boxes and boxes of drinks to restock the tiny drink counter, and other empty boxes and rubbish. Most things were caked in layers of dust. I couldn’t help but think – when was this last maintained? But as the chairlift took off – I pushed it from my mind, it was probably better not to know.

Ideally what should be this... unfortunately this.

How fast is too fast?

March 14, 2012

                As part of China’s rapid expansion, the entire country is almost constantly upgrading its infrastructure. Wherever you go, you’ll see new highways being dug out, central business districts littered with construction sites as new subway systems are built, and high speed rail networks pushing the technological barrier, seeking to be faster and faster, ever-reducing the transit times between cities.           

                While I haven’t seen any recent statistics, I would suspect that train travel is still the most widely used form of transport. While more and more planes are filling the skies, and cars clogging up the roads as the middle class become richer by the day, for the vast majority of Chinese, train transport is not only efficient, but affordable.

                China has been suffering regular issues with the ongoing upgrading of the train networks, in particular the higher speed lines. Faulty construction and human error were blamed for a crash that occurred last year, killing 40 people. Recently, another segment of line collapsed – a segment which had previously undergone tests. This was possibly due to heavy rains, and thankfully nobody was injured, but it still highlights the fact that this rapid expansion is not without costs.

                It’s one thing to expand as fast as humanly possible – but it’s another issue entirely when quality and safety is seemingly bypassed in favour of efficiency and speed.

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