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Safety concerns stall railway projects

(Global Times)

08:57, November 10, 2011

With more focus on safety and quality issues, many railway authorities recently canceled or postponed their dates for building new lines intending to start up by the end of 2011.

The 291-kilometer Wuhan-Yichang high-speed railway, an important part of the Shanghai-Wuhan-Chengdu line that runs across China's eastern, central and western areas, will not begin operation this month. Instead, it is in the process of final adjustments and testing.

The Wuhan-Yichang line's design speed is 200 kilometers per hour.

It will also promote utilization of the entire Shanghai-Wuhan-Chengdu line, saving 20 hours for tourists traveling from Shanghai to Chengdu, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday.

Beginning construction in September 2008, the line was intended to be operating at the end of this year. After the Wenzhou bullet train accident on July 23, the line's builder postponed its running date, according to Xinhua.

According to its new agenda, the line will finish trial operation in January 2012 and finish its quality control and safety evaluation in February 2012. It's expected to be running in March 2012.

There are many more examples. After the Wenzhou accident, all railway departments across the country started to overhaul safety and conducted quality inspections from top to bottom, which has slowed down the construction of railway projects, Zhang Cheng, the project manager of the Shijiazhuang-Wuhan line, told Xinhua.

Railway experts welcomed the delays saying safety and quality are paramount.

"We have longer and more sufficient testing and adjustments, so we can avoid more risks in formal operations," Sun Yuanzhang, a railway expert at Tongji University in Shanghai, told the Global Times Wednesday.

Without enough time to test, the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway had many problems during its operation, Sun said, adding that "at that time, people rushed the work just to finish the huge project on or before deadline."

Since the Wenzhou train crash, railway authorities have been more cautious about projects, Li Hongchang, an associate professor at the School of Economics and Management at Beijing Jiaotong University, told the Global Times.

"Putting more attention on the railway's quality and safety is more rational than speeding up construction just for political performance," Li said.

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