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High-speed rail on right track: chief researcher


16:33, March 11, 2012

BEIJING - China will continue to develop its high-speed rail network in the face of rising public demand for traveling efficiency and future economic development, a senior railway researcher has said.

"I have confidence in the future of China's high-speed railway," said Huang, chief researcher with the China Academy of Railway Sciences, in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

Huang, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's top political advisory body, said he supports the railway ministry's notion of developing high-speed railway "moderately in advance" to the current market demand and in line with economic development.

Passengers have filled more than 60 percent of the seats on several China's intercity trains, including the high speed rail link between Beijing and Shanghai, said Huang.

"So far as I know, there is a strong demand for bullet trains among China's local railway bureaus, in hope of carrying more passengers, like authorities with the Shanghai-Nanjing intercity railway," he said.

The Chinese government decided to slow the development of high-speed rail and put speed limits on the existing express ways after a fatal high-speed train crash that killed 40 people in east China in July last year.

But Huang said with technical solutions and disciplined operation, China's future high-speed commuter railway will be safe with driverless operation under the ATO (Automatic Train Operation) system.

"Speed and safety are closely connected, but high speed does not necessarily lead to safety risks," he said.

Huang said the July train crash has exposed weak links in railway safety management, including the introduction of immature technologies and management failures.

"China's high-speed railway development has been aggressive in previous years, in which some important links were missed," he added.

Fifty-four officials have been punished for the July train crash, including former Railway Minister Liu Zhijun and former Deputy Chief Railway Engineer Zhang Shuguang, both of whom had been investigated for "severe violation of discipline" before the accident.

A lot of work has been done by the government to examine and evaluate the safety condition on high-speed railway since the July accident, according to Huang.

"This would continue this year with a responsible attitude to all passengers," he said.

Huang revealed that China's safety regulator and railway authorities will continue a safety overhaul on high-speed rail link, focusing on research, development and installation of signaling equipment, train maintenance, protection against lightning and quake.

The overhaul also aimed to enhance disciplined operation of train scheduling and management, work-safety training, operation environment and the sense of responsibility of railway operators, he said.

Huang stressed that China's self-developed high-speed railway technologies do not have any intellectual property rights dispute with foreign countries and are "internationally recognized."

"It's like making a detailed design for room decoration and having others provide all the furniture, lighting, wallpaper and home appliances. The intellectual property rights belong to the designer," he said.

China's State Council said at the end of last year that high-speed railway development is "the right direction" as it helps improve public transportation and gives a boost to economic growth, and it will be promoted in a "scientific, safe and sustainable way."

The railway ministry has scaled down the full-year investment in railway infrastructure to 400 billion yuan ($629.9 billion) this year, down from 469 billion yuan in 2011 and over 700 billion yuan in 2010.


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