How China's bullet train 'doctors' ensure travel safety




Bullet trains slowlyenterShenyangNorthMaintenance Station as night falls. This is when Ren Wenmin and other trainexaminerscomeinforanother24-hour shift.

Theyare like train doctors, though they cover more ground than most physicians. On their first stop, the driving cab, the inspectors run some initial teststogetaroughassessment of the health of the motor system, like a brain scan for a locomotive.

Ren Wenmin conducts performance tests in the cockpit of a high-speed train. /CGTN

"We test eachmoduleto seewhetherit'sfunctional before uploading the data,including every command,into the system. Then we save and analyze the numbers after returning to the office. If there is any malfunction, we can deal with itintimeandmakesureit runs on the line tomorrow," Ren said.

To keep China's high-speed trains running on schedule, maintenance workerslike him strive to ensure railway vehicles are in top shape before each journey.

If you thinkpushing a button isall that's neededto keepahigh-speed train and hundreds of passengers safe at 350 kilometers per hour, well, think again. The crucial work lies under the train, and it must be done by hand. Ren has to duck into the maintenance pit and, using a flashlight, carefullyexamine eachpiece of equipmentforpossibledamage.

"It could be devastatingifsomething hits the equipment at over 300 kilometers per hour. Even a pebble can cause damage or cause parts to fall off, especially when it rains or snows. That increases the chanceofaderail, which posesgreat danger to passengers' safety," Ren said as he checked the screws and radars under a train.

Ren and other train inspectors have a standard procedure when examining the equipment under the train – look, point and call out. /CGTN

Examiningeachtraintakesaboutanhourifallgoeswell. Ren runs thesameproceduremeticulously over 20timesduring aregularshift, asthetrains continue arriving throughout the night. His coworkers often see himtrotonandoff, through the yard, in between each train, even when he's off-duty.

"If I weren't a Party member, then I'donly need to focus onmyjob. But thefoundingpurposeofthe Partyistoserve the people. So, we followthisprinciple, even if wesometimesdon't have enough time tobewithour own families," said Ren, who joined the Communist Party of China when he was 18.

"Luckily, my wifeisalwaysthereforme, taking care of most of thehousework, andshe never complains about it. Mydaughterknows thatherfather worksto maintainthemostadvancedrailwaysystem in the country,and she is proud of me," he said, chuckling.

Ren said he has developeda deeper understanding since entering the Party and often shares his thoughtswithother members at their weekly meetings.

"At themeetings, my colleagues and I are all equals, despite rank or seniority," he said. "We address each person's issuesexplicitly andtry to make progress.This way,we can further ensure safe travel and contribute more to China's railway development."

Over the past 14 years, Ren has checked the entire length of each train to ensure no flaws or risks are overlooked, in effect,walkingnearly17,000 kilometers – the distance from Norway to New Zealand.

There are thousands of unsung behind-the-scenes heroes just like him, doing ordinary work to keep millions of passengers safe and sound every day.

(Cover: Ren Wenming, a train examiner at the Shenyang North Maintenance Station. /CGTN)