Accidents on Metro expansion hurt Shenzhen

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 April, 2011, 12:00am


Shenzhen's rush to complete five Metro lines before it hosts the world university games in August has been dogged by derailment, flood, fire and death.

A total of 155 kilometres of Metro line are scheduled to be finished by June, ready to showcase Shenzhen's efficiency and embrace the 2011 Universiade, to give the games their formal title. To meet the deadline, Shenzhen invested about 20 billion yuan (HK$23.88 billion) in metro construction last year, including 12.6 billion yuan from the city government.

Shenzhen once boasted that hosting the games would gain it world attention, like Beijing's Olympics, the World Expo in Shanghai, or at the very least Guangzhou's successful hosting of the Asian Games.

But frequent accidents on the Metro expansion project have hurt the city's image and left many residents worried.

An official document that began circulating on the internet this month said a train left the rails during a test on the Longhua section of Metro Line 4 last month. In the document, the city's Railway Transportation Construction Office criticised the operator of Metro Line 4, Hong Kong's MTR Corp, for a lack of strict safety management, which led to the derailment.

The document said there had also been a fire at Shangmeilin Station since the start of decorating and tests on Line 4.

The operator confirmed the accident, saying it was caused by a 'non-standard operation' by contractors and had nothing to do with the train and the signal system. It insisted the derailment had no impact on the rest of construction.

However, it has not been the only Metro accident in the past month.

One worker was killed and four others injured on April 4 when a manually controlled chain hoist broke loose in a Metro Line 5 tunnel in Longgang district. A preliminary investigation by district safety authorities found mechanical failure was to blame.

On March 29, a burst sewage pipe caused a cave-in near the entrance to Daxin Station on an extension of Metro Line 1. Sewage swept away foundations - leading to a cave-in about 3 metres from the station - and flowed into the station. A 5-metre-deep hole covering an area of about 10 square metres opened up.

Despite concerns expressed online by Shenzhen residents, the Railway Transportation Construction Office says the recent accidents have not been caused by a rush to complete construction.

'Rail construction is a systematic engineering project which involves more than 20 sub-systems such as tunnel construction, power supply, environmental control and sewage,' office head Zhao Penglin said. 'The projects started in 2007 and the accidents were not caused by a rush to meet deadlines.'

It is not the first time that concerns have been expressed about Shenzhen's Metro construction boom. A Shenzhen Metro insider posted claims of serious safety problems online last year, saying at least 13 workers died in accidents on Metro construction sites in the first 10 months of last year. In March last year, more than 300 residents were evacuated after a construction site on Line 3 collapsed. Another collapse occurred on the line in November.

Liang Daoxing, head of the games executive office, admitted in September that construction, repairs and testing at many venues was still behind schedule.

The Southern Metropolis News reported in May last year that two senior officials from the municipal public works bureau vented their anger at repeated delays to Universiade-related construction on a project manager, throwing an ashtray and water bottles at him. The bureau later apologised, explaining that its officials were under great pressure to complete infrastructure on schedule.

'Now it's almost May. Shenzhen looks like a massive construction site everywhere, dirty, noisy and a mess,' Shao Yingxiu, a Shenzhen resident, said. 'I see nowhere ready for the Universiade.'