China To Cut Speeds Of Bullet Trains

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BEIJING, Aug. 11 (UPI) — China, reacting to last month’s deadly crash of one of its bullet trains, will lower the operating speeds of such trains to improve safety, the Cabinet said.

The decision by the Cabinet, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, included an overhaul of the high-speed rail system.

Forty people died and another 200 were injured in the July 23 crash in which a high-speed train struck the rear of another train stalled on the tracks due to signaling problems near Wenzhou city in southeast China.

China considers its high-speed rail system one of its showpiece industries and has said the system’s “technology is advanced, its quality reliable and safety guaranteed.”

However, in a long article Thursday the China Daily, analysts were quoted as saying the latest decision is a signal Beijing “is slowing its ambitious high-speed rail program, which has put the country in the same league as Japan and Europe in terms of high-speed rail development.”

The government will reevaluate the safety systems of rail projects that have been approved but have yet to start construction, and to suspend the examination or approval of newly proposed projects, the report said.

The Railways Ministry said initially trains with a top design speed of 350 kilometers per hour (217 mph) will be lowered to 300 kph (186 mph) and those designed to run up to 250 kph (155 mph) will operate at 200 kph (124 mph). Train fares also will be reduced.

Zhao Jian, a railway expert at Beijing Jiaotong University, told China Daily policy makers have realized the problems that they previously ignored.

“China needs some time to consolidate its safety management system on bullet trains,” another expert said, adding: “The export of technologies will slow down.”

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