Will China Have to Rebuild An HSR Line?
A report from China this week suggests that a new high speed rail route may have to be partially rebuilt due to problems with the way the tracks were laid.
The Harbin to Dalian high speed route, located in Manchuria, is facing problems with frost and deformation of the roadbed:
Part of the newly built Harbin-Dalian high speed railroad connecting Northeast China’s Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces is now facing reconstruction due to roadbed deformation, an expert said on Tuesday.
Wang Mengshu, chief engineer of the China Railway Tunnel Group and academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told the Global Times that certain parts of the railroad were not initially designed properly.
“In regions where the temperature varies greatly around the year, frost heaving becomes a major problem in construction,” said Wang. “Designers need to pay extra attention to the amount of water in the roadbed. Too little water reduces roadbed strength, while too much water could cause deformation.”
Wang said a certain part of the Harbin-Dalian line, the first of its kind in Northeast China, was designed to avoid building tunnels for the purpose of reducing cost, causing the railroad to travel through ravines where rain water can easily accumulate and damage the roadbed.
An anonymous expert from the Ministry of Railways made similar comments and added that 70 percent of the ballastless track, a type of track specially required by high speed lines, was built on a viaduct to help drain water. Some 20 percent of the track built directly on the ground roadbed has seen different levels of deformation, reported Economy & Nation Weekly on Sunday.
The Harbin-Dalian high speed railroad is currently the northernmost high speed line in China with temperatures dropping to as low as -40 C in the area.
There’s nowhere along the California HSR route that comes anywhere close to having temperatures as low as -40C, so I doubt this specific issue would affect the California project. But it is another blow to the Chinese HSR program, which has been reeling from budget and safety concerns.
Sometimes people ask the question as to why it takes longer to build infrastructure in the United States than in China. This helps provide the answer. It’s worth taking more time to get it right. China may have pushed too far too fast in their efforts to get as much HSR built as possible. And in an attempt to cut costs, they appear to merely have given themselves a larger headache that will have to be cured at a greater cost than had they taken their time to get this right.
The same pressures to cut costs will exist on the California HSR project, coming from people who never supported the project to begin with. We’ll do all we can to make sure that costs are never cut for their own sake, and that the rail system gets built right the first time.