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"Mechanical glitch" delays 32 trains on first day of railway speed boost
Latest Updated by 2007-04-19 09:09:43

China's new high-speed rail service began on Wednesday, only to grind to a halt in the south of the country when one train broke down, delaying 32 others for more than five hours.

A passenger train failed to function due to a "mechanical glitch" en route from Guangzhou to Shenzhen at 7:35 am, delaying other rail traffic, including 21 high-speed trains, said officials with Guangzhou Railway Group.

The official made a public apology for the delay, but declined to say whether the stalled engine was a high-speed train.

Local railway departments took emergency measures and schedules returned to normal at 12:40 p.m..

China boosted its railway speed for the sixth time on Wednesday and 280 high-speed trains went into operation. More than 500 high-speed trains will be in service by the end of the year.

"Safety is crucial in the speed boost", said Zhang Shuguang, the ministry's deputy chief engineer, adding the government had allocated about 100 million yuan to "thoroughly improve and upgrade" tracks.

In 2006, China made up for a quarter of the world's total railway transport volume, while its total track was only six percent of the world's total, said spokesman with the ministry.

The speed boost would help to increase passenger capacity on the nation's 77,000-km of rail lines by 18 percent and cargo capacity by 12 percent, according to the ministry.

Travel times between major cities would be slashed by up to half as the trains ran at speeds of up to 250 kilometers per hour, said Hu Yadong, Vice Minister of Railways. Currently, express trains travel at an average of 115 kilometers per hour.

Before the first speed boost in 1997, trains could travel at a maximum speed of 140 kilometers per hour.

The development of the new trains has put airlines under pressure.

The average travel time by air between Beijing and Shenyang, capital city of northeast China's Liaoning Province, more than 800kilometers away, is four hours, including check-in time, security checks and travel into the downtown area from the airport on the outskirts of the city.

But now, the train also takes four hours at a cost of 218 yuan (28 U.S. dollars). A flight costs 700 yuan (90 U.S. dollars).

Airlines have not announced any price cuts but a spokesman from the north China branch of China Southern Airlines said that they would respond to the railway speed lift by improving service quality and ensuring the punctuality. "We will not engage in price competition," said the man on a condition of anonymity.

Experts have also warned people living near to railways to be careful when high-speed trains pass. "When a train whistles by at 56 meters per second, it generates an air current as strong as a gale and a person standing too close to the line can be "sucked in" by the train," said Dai Shile, an engineer with the Zhengzhou Railway Bureau.

Editor: Donald

By: Source:China View website
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