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'More time needed' for bullet train crash probe

(Shanghai Daily)

08:33, September 22, 2011

Investigators will need more time before they can say what caused the fatal bullet train crash on July 23, China's top work safety watchdog said yesterday.

Results had been due by the middle of this month but the State Administration of Work Safety said yesterday: "Many questions concerning technology and management need further analysis and tests by the investigation team."

The accident killed 40 people and injured 191 others when a bullet train crashed into a stationary train at Wenzhou in Zhejiang Province.

Investigators had convened more than 200 meetings, studied 1,300 documents and talked to 300 people to find out what caused the fatal collision, the officials said.

Reports summarizing their findings so far amounted to almost 2 million words.

The situation was very complicated due to the distinctiveness in the design, construction, operation and management of high-speed railways, the investigation group said in a statement.

"We will not let go of a single doubtful point to investigate ad collect evidence," the statement said.

Investigators said they had gathered important site and laboratory data related to the crash. But in terms of operational control and management mechanism of the high-speed train services, they needed more time to analyze possible loopholes.

The government has struggled to address public anger over the accident when one high-speed train rammed into another one stranded on the track after it was hit by lightning.

Soon after the crash, domestic media blamed foreign technology.

But railway authorities subsequently said a signal that should have turned red after lightning hit the train that stalled remained green, and rail staff failed to see something was amiss.

Wenzhou Station staff, however, later published an open letter calling such accusations "untrue and unfair."

A safety administration spokesman said last month that the crash could have been prevented, according to the results of an initial investigation.

It included a detailed survey and a simulated recreation of the accident, as well as an analysis of the data from the trains' black box recorders.

Preliminary investigations revealed serious design flaws in railway signaling equipment, as well as loopholes in railway safety management.

A Chinese railway research institute took responsibility for a flaw in signalling equipment and the authorities promised a full review of safety procedures.

Premier Wen Jiabao vowed that an investigation would be thorough and transparent, and several senior railway officials have been fired.

According to the State Council, the responsibility of the investigation group includes finding out the facts, cause, casualties and direct economic losses of the train crash.

The group will also be defining responsibilities, suggesting punishments for those held responsible for the accident, drawing lessons from the tragedy and rolling out measures to prevent accidents in the future.

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