China has seen a number of serious infrastructure construction accidents in recent years. The focus of this paper will be on urban rail. Much has been written about the technical and circumstantial causes for these accidents, but relatively little about the organizational framework and contractual arrangements which constitute the context within which safety measures fail to be monitored and enforced effectively during such construction projects. This article aims to show how existing contractual incentives provide incentives for various involved parties which lead them to make decisions where safety is sacrificed to the benefit of other values. By regarding the contractual arrangements as the outcome of a power game between principal, agents and sub-agents, the social mechanisms that evoke strategic behavior among key players are proposed to explain the context in which operational choices are made. The case of the Hangzhou subway construction disaster, which has been the most dramatic instance in China to date, is used to illustrate the mechanisms we propose in our theoretical framework.

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Journal Policy and Society
Ma, Y, de Jong, W.M, Koppenjan, J.F.M, Xi, B, & Mu, R. (2012). Explaining the organizational and contractual context of subway construction disasters in China: The case of Hangzhou. Policy and Society, 31(1), 87–103. doi:10.1016/j.polsoc.2012.01.001