High derailment risk for PRC-made South Rail trains

Source: Sharp Daily

Left: The axlebox (left circle) and the gearbox(right circle) used on the SIL trains.  Right: the axlebox as viewed from the side of the train. (Source: Sharp Daily)

Note: My personal interpretation of the events is that the trains Changchun delivered do not match the specifications it originally told the MTRC, which is why they won’t fit in the tunnels.  If so, the MTRC should definitely sue for its losses.  But that’s the risk you take when working with the Chinese: the standards there are lower.

The Hong Kong Government has a 76% majority stake in the MTRC, according to Wikipedia.

(Sharp Daily) The MTRC’s South Island Line has been hit with a safety scandal, as Apple Daily has obtained company documents showing design flaws in its new China-manufactured driverless trains, leading to a risk of the vehicle hitting the edge of the tube and causing a potentially fatal derailment.  The report states that the MTRC is trying to rectify the mistake, and that a delayed opening of the line could cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars.  The MTRC denied that there was any safety problems and stressed that the South Island Line would be completed within budget and on time, entering operations in two years.

The MTRC had in 2011 ordered 10 driverless trains from China’s Changchun Railway Vehicles Company for use on the South Island Line (SIL), at a cost of 541 million Hong Kong dollars.  Internal MTRC documents show that parts of the train, including the axlebox and gearbox, exceed the maximum allowable kinematic envelope (KE), the outline of the space occupied by a rail vehicle when in motion.  KE calculations are designed to ensure that the train never hits its surroundings under any conditions; however, the report reveals that the SIL trains exceed the KE requirement by 25.8mm for the gearbox and 46.8mm for the axlebox.

A senior engineer said that the KE “is absolutely critical to train safety.  Any collision could result in a derailment.”  The protruding axlebox could potentially strike the tube’s electrical, signalling, or other installations, while the gearbox could strike debris on the track.  The gearbox could also affect operations by collecting water.

The engineer stated that the as the above errors are inexcusable as they endanger public safety.  However, he/she also admitted that repairs would be extremely difficult, as basic work on some sections of the track has already been completed.  If the design of the offending train parts were to be changed, “it would be equivalent to redesigning the entire train, involving a repeat of the entire testing process,” which would usually take three years.  It is reported that an MTRC engineer proposed relaxing the KE safety requirements to allow the train to operate, but the proposal was shot down this month by Chief Electrical & Mechanical Engineer Leung Chi-Lap, and a solution to the problem has yet to be found.

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