Fears over subway cable scandal prompt nationwide checks in China

Tender documents show company that supplied problematic cables had won contracts worth more than 13 million yuan before its production line started operation in 2014

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 5:46pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 11:19pm

Fears over the quality of subway cabling used in Shaanxi have spread nationwide with government orders to carry out checks on cables from the same supplier used on lines throughout the country.

The General Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine on Thursday ordered thorough checks on all subway and high-speed railway cable systems using Shaanxi-based cable supplier Aokai Cable.

Mainland media reported that Aokai subway cables used in a number of city subway systems were substandard.

The state-owned China Railway Group, whose companies were among the earliest buyers of the problematic cables, vowed on Friday to replace all cables by the company “unconditionally” and terminate all contracts with the supplier.

very urgent”, the administration ordered governments of all provinces to conduct quality tests on all cables provided by Aokai and comprehensive checks on all other electrical cable suppliers.

The Aokai cables were used or about to be installed in subway and railways in various cities, including Beijing, Kunming, Dalian, Hefei and Chengdu, according to reports by Shanghai-based news portal Thepaper.cn and The Beijing News.

The reports said Aokai cables were used in Line 7 of the Beijing subway but on Friday the Beijing MTR Construction Administration Corporation denied that was the case.

Chinese subway system to carry out checks amid fears over faulty cabling

Aokai Cable has also won bids to supply cables for high-speed railways, including the Lanzhou-Xinjiang line, which is up and running, and the Baoji-Lanzhou line, which is still being built, according to Beijing Youth Daily.

Tender documents showed the company had won contracts valued at more than 13 million yuan, before its production line started operation in 2014, Thepaper.cn reported.

The supplier’s earliest clients included a company under the state-owned China Railway Group, which provided the cable for a railway in Dalian.

Concerns over the quality of the cables surfaced initially in Xian, the capital of Shaanxi province, where a whistle-blower said to be a former Aokai employee accused the firm online of cutting back on materials in the cables.

The post said the cables were much smaller than required, resulting in huge power wastage and raising the risk of overheating and fire.

Tricks to cut the cost of electrical cables or increase turnover are common among suppliers, according to Wang Mengshu, a rail expert and a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

“There were many cases of rubber insulation on cables being replaced by plastic, which wore out more easily and needed to be replaced more often. But usually they don’t make the wire thinner.”

Wang said the problematic cables were mostly used for mid- and low-voltage electrical cables, so did not pose as great a danger as they would if used for high-voltage cables.

Transport and rail safety has been a hot issue in China since 40 people were killed six years ago when two high-speed trains collided in Wenzhou in Zhejiang province.

The Ministry of Railways later reported that 12 major railways lines, including the stretch of track in Wenzhou, were constructed of materials that did not meet quality standards.

Media reports that followed unearthed shady details of the supply chain in the industry, where associates of railway officials could sell their products at prices higher than market price.