China recalls bullet trains in rail overhaul

Another blow to country's high-speed rail network, already reeling from suspension of all new projects.

    More than 50 bullet trains running on a new high-speed rail link between Beijing and Shanghai are to be recalled due to "flaws", their manufacturer has announced.

    The move to pull the 54 trains was announced on Friday, just a day after Beijing said that it was suspending approval of new railway projects and cutting down the speeds on newly laid tracks, after a deadly collision between two high-speed trains last month.

    The state-owned rail company said that the recall would allow it to analyse the issues that have plagued services on the new line, which was built at a total cost of $33bn and opened on June 30.

    "China CNR Corp ... is recalling 54 CRH380BL bullet trains produced by our  subsidiaries that are already in operation to systematically analyse causes of flaws," the firm said in a statement filed with the Shanghai stock exchange on Friday.

    The recall would allow it to "conduct an overhaul to ensure their quality and safety," said the statement, which was approved by the railway ministry.

    About a quarter of the servics on the new line will be affected.

    Safety checks

    Rail authorities said late on Wednesday they had cut the speed of trains running on newly built high-speed  lines and would conduct safety checks on all existing links as well as those under construction.

    "We will suspend for the time being the examination and approval of new railway construction projects," the State Council said in a statement.

    The government will also "thoroughly" examine projects that have already been submitted for approval, it added.

    Developing the world's largest high-speed rail network has been a key political goal for Beijing, but the death of 40 people in a collision of two high-speed trains on July 23 provoked public outrage.

    The crash - China's worst rail accident since 2008 - triggered a flood of criticism of the railways ministry and sparked accusations that the government had compromised safety in its rush to develop.

    Even China's official media weighed in, with the People's Daily newspaper saying the country did not need "blood-soaked GDP".

    "We feel deep guilt and sorrow about the tragic losses of life and property in the accident," Sheng Guangzu, the railways minister, said in the statement issued after a State Council meeting.

    Corruption allegations

    The railways ministry announced on Thursday that trains designed to run at a maximum speed of 250 kilometres per hour would instead be limited to 200kph, impacting ticket prices and network timetables.

    China has the world's biggest high-speed rail network. It reached 8,358km at the end of 2010, and authorities had planned for it to exceed 13,000km by 2012 and 16,000km by 2020.

    In December 2010, the railways ministry announced that a Chinese train had reached a speed of 486kph, smashing the world record for an unmodified train. Earlier this year, however, cracks started to emerge.

    Authorities decided to limit speeds on the network to 300kph, following allegations of high-level corruption in the rail sector.

    Then railways minister Liu Zhijun was sacked in February over graft charges, after he allegedly took more than $125 million in kickbacks over several years on contracts linked to the network.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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