China will provide early earthquake warnings for its high-speed railway network within three years to reduce the threat to the world’s longest rail network, which transports more than 1 billion passengers a year.
The China Earthquake Administration and China Railway Corp signed an agreement on Oct 23 to begin a trial that aims to bring the country’s high-speed railways into the national earthquake early warning system, a statement from the administration said.
A pilot run will be conducted before the early warning service is officially in operation, it said.
According to the administration, the early warning system — known as the National Seismic Intensity Rapid Reporting and Early Warning project — will include more than 15,000 observation stations across the country by 2023. The cost of the project stands at about 1.9 billion yuan ($274 million).
There will be 3,360 service terminals placed in government offices to provide earthquake warnings, as well as in public institutions. Vital infrastructure and utilities, such as nuclear power plants, will also be included.
Seismic sensors can detect the first energy that emerges from a quake before the primary jolt begins, which makes it possible to warn people in affected areas before they feel anything.
In case of earthquake, the potential damage to a fast-moving train is much greater than that to a stationary one. The faster the train moves, the more severe the damage may be. Thus, damage can be reduced if trains are able to stop following an early warning.
Zheng Guoguang, vice-minister of emergency management and head of the China Earthquake Administration, said in an earlier interview with China Daily that the railway network in Southwest China will probably be brought into the national early warning system first, considering the frequency of earthquakes there.
He said the early warning system for high-speed trains will play its role best after the completion of the National Seismic Intensity Rapid Reporting and Early Warning project.
China has the longest high-speed rail network in the world and is also one of the countries with the most earthquakes.
According to China Railway Corp, the country has planned to extend its high-speed network from about 25,000 kilometers at the end of 2017 to more than 30,000 kilometers by 2020.
On average, China is hit by 24 earthquakes above magnitude 5.0, four above magnitude 6.0 every year, and two above magnitude 7.0 every three years.
Covering about 7 percent of the world’s land area, China experiences 33 percent of the globe’s major continental earthquakes, the administration said.