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July 25, 2011

Chinese high-speed crash prompts safety probe

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A TOTAL of 39 people died and 192 were injured on the evening of July 23 following a collision in China between two trains on a viaduct near Wenzhou on the coastal 250km/h line linking Ningbo and Xiamen. It is reported that train D3115, which had 1072 passengers on board, had stopped following a lightning strike when it was struck by the following train, D301, which was carrying 558 passengers. The impact caused the front four cars of D301 to fall off the viaduct on to the ground below, while the rear two cars of train D3115 were derailed. It is unclear why the signalling system failed to halt train D301 and prevent it from hitting train D3115.
Immediately after the accident, the Ministry of Railways called for a two-month nationwide safety check and announced that three senior officials in the Shanghai Railway Bureau had been dismissed pending an investigation. The officials are Mr Long Jing, the bureau's head, Mr Li Jia, head of the bureau's Communist Party committee, and deputy chief Mr He Shengli.

"Safety should be put as the top priority," said Mr Wang Yongping, a spokesman for the Ministry of Railways, speaking the following day in Wenzhou. He said the Ministry will undertake a thorough investigation to discover the cause of the accident and take effective measures to prevent similar accidents.

Despite the accident, Wang said the Ministry is still confident in high-speed rail. "China's high-speed train is advanced and qualified," Wang said. "We have confidence in it."

Nevertheless shares in leading Chinese railway equipment manufacturers took a hit in heavy trading today on the Shanghai stock exchange.

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