Concerns over Chinese ‘spying rail car’ could delay progress in US transport systems

By Chu Daye Source:Global Times Published: 2019/1/13 19:53:39

A view of a factory by China Railway Rolling Stock Crop in the US. File photo: VCG



Claims that Chinese-made subway cars could spy on US politicians are groundless and could delay progress in US rail transportation, a Chinese railway expert said. 

The comment came after the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) told the Global Times in an email statement that it has robust controls in place to maintain the security of its system, addressing concerns that subway cars made by a Chinese rolling stock producer could be used for espionage.

On January 7, the Washington Post ran a story, raising concerns that subway cars made by State-owned China Railway Rolling Stock Corp (CRRC) could conduct surveillance of US officials as they ride the lines, secretly record sensitive conversations and leave loopholes in its software for hackers.

Sun Zhang, a railway expert and professor at Shanghai Tongji University, told the Global Times on Sunday that the Hollywood spy thriller-like allegations are groundless and stem from a growing momentum by the US to check China's leading industries, from the railway industry to telecom equipment.

The report came less than one month after CRRC said on December 18 that it had completed the production of a pair of subway cars in its US factory in Springfield City, Massachusetts. It was the first pair of next-generation rail cars built to replace cars that have served the Orange Line of Boston for decades. The MBTA is the owner.

"The safety of the T's [nickname for the Boston region transit authority] systems is of the utmost importance and the MBTA has robust controls in place to maintain the security of the system," the authority said in its statement to the Global Times over the weekend.

The agency added that no software components for the new cars are produced in China, and it said it has stringent controls during the rail cars' design process, and it closely manages the implementation of all connected vehicle components.

The authority will examine cyber-security hazards through an overall system safety analysis, based on the US Department of Defense's Military System Safety Standard.  

CRRC declined to comment when reached by the Global Times. 

Sun said the concerns raised in the Washington Post report are "like giving up eating for fear of choking."

"As rail cars get smarter, it is normal for them to have connected systems such as surveillance cameras and sensors. Saying No to such technologies will delay progress of the US in this specific field."

While no US company makes subway cars, it is likely some lobby group is behind the story to make room for Europe and Japanese manufacturers and isolate Chinese manufacturers, Sun noted.

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