Collapse of track latest blow to China's bullet-train plans

Tue, Mar 13, 2012, 00:00

WOES FOR China’s high-speed rail project continue to mount as a section of railway line that had already undergone test runs collapsed in central China following heavy rains.

The collapse of a 300m section of the railway line is the latest setback for the high-profile project since a crash last summer that killed 40 people near Wenzhou.

The official news agency Xinhua said hundreds of workers were rushing to repair the line between the Yangtze River cities of Yichang and Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei province.

The report did not mention casualties and said it looked like the problem was caused by heavy rain.

The section of the Hanyi high-speed railway is due to open in May and is a key element in developing high-speed rail in central China.

Beijing slowed down the development of high-speed rail and put speed limits on the existing express railways, after a fatal high-speed train crash between two trains killed 40 people in east China in July last year.

A lightning strike caused one train to lose power and a signalling failure led the second train to rear-end the first.

The crash badly undermined the high-speed rail project and triggered a public outcry over the costs and dangers of the bullet train system.

The latest incident comes a day after a senior rail researcher said China would continue to develop the network to meet rising demand from the public.

Fifty-four government officials have been punished for the July train crash, including former rail minister Liu Zhijun and former deputy chief railway engineer Zhang Shuguang, both of whom had been investigated for “severe violation of discipline” before the July accident.

The railway ministry has also scaled down the full-year investment in railway infrastructure to 400 billion yuan (about €48.2 billion) this year, down from 469 billion yuan in 2011 and over 700 billion yuan in 2010.