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China to slow its high-speed trains

The government's move to cut speeds from 215 mph to 185 mph is a response to last month's collision in Wenzhou, which killed 40.

August 11, 2011|By Benjamin Haas | Los Angeles Times
  • The Harmony bullet train departs from a railway station in Shenyang, China.
The Harmony bullet train departs from a railway station in Shenyang, China. (Sheng Li / Reuters )

Reporting from Beijing — China will slow down its high-speed trains and conduct safety checks along its expansive network in response to a deadly collision last month that left 40 dead and nearly 200 injured, the country's State Council said Wednesday.

Speeds will be reduced on all trains by about 30 mph starting Sept. 1, slowing China's fastest trains from 215 mph to 185 mph. The country's showcase Beijing-Shanghai line was already reduced to 185 mph when it was opened in June.

Rail Minister Sheng Guangzu said China would suspend all new rail projects during the upcoming round of safety checks, the Nanfang Daily reported. This marks the first time since China began its massive railway expansion in 1997 that train speeds have been reduced across the board. At nearly 8,000 miles, China has the world's longest high-speed rail system and plans to extend it to 10,000 miles by 2020.

The deadly collision in July marked a national crisis for the government, which stood accused by millions of Internet users of mishandling the disaster.

Premier Wen Jiabao visited the site of the accident in Wenzhou late last month and pledged a transparent investigation that would satisfy the public.

No official cause or blame for the collision has been assigned yet, but a company responsible for the track's signaling system has admitted to providing faulty equipment.

After a few days of dogged reporting by domestic media, China's propaganda ministry ordered a stop to any critical reporting of the event.

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