Ministry apologizes for delays on railway

BEIJING – Authorities plan to inspect the recently opened Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway to ensure its safety after equipment on it failed on three separate occasions in four days, a railways official said on Thursday.

During an online chat, Wang Yongping, spokesman for the Ministry of Railways, said the spate of equipment failures has prompted the ministry to call meetings to better understand the causes of the malfunctions.

The operators of the high-speed railway, construction companies and train manufacturers are being encouraged to take measures to guarantee the line will run in a safe and orderly fashion, he said.

Wang offered an apology to the passengers who had been on board the delayed trains. In the two weeks since June 30, when the line began operating, only 85.6 percent of the trains have arrived to their destinations on time.

“The glitches have exposed some problems, but this is happening mainly because the equipment is still in a ripening period,” he said.

Wang explained the causes of the malfunctions in detail. Speaking of a power failure that caused 19 trains to be delayed on the line in Shandong province on Sunday, he said that was the result of a short circuit that occurred during a thunderstorm.

He then turned to a power loss that occurred on Tuesday, bringing 30 trains to a temporary halt. Wang said that failure occurred when a pantograph (a device that collects electric current from overhead lines) on a certain train was damaged. Engineers are trying to discover the cause of the damage.

Yet another malfunction occurred on Wednesday, when the operators of a bullet train found they could not make the train go faster than 160 km/h, leading passengers to take a backup train. Wang said that malfunction resulted from a bad electrical contact in the train’s traction transformer.

“Despite these malfunctions, the equipment and technology (of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway) are advanced and have been tested,” he said. “With these problems exposed and solved, China’s high-speed railway will become better.”

Experts agreed that high-speed railways tend to fail more often when they are first brought into operation.

Still, online reports about the glitches have raised doubts about China’s Beijing-Shanghai high-speed among netizens and provided fodder for ridicule to a few media outlets in Japan and South Korea.

Wang noted that similar mishaps had occurred when high-speed railways began operating in France, Germany and Japan. Malfunctions caused Tohoku Shinkansen, a 631.9-km line running between Tokyo and Hachinohe in Japan, to stop running for an hour on Dec 4, 2010, the first day the line was operational along its entire length.

The same line was subject to two more glitches on Jan 15, only resuming operation after undergoing four hours of harried repairs.

“We welcome foreign media’s good-natured criticism and reasonable suggestions, but are sad that some media outlets are gloating,” he said. “They should make sure they are taking care of their own business before they make these sorts of comments.”

Statistics show that an average of 165,000 passengers have used the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway every day since July 1. Another 80,000 continue every day to take the old railway that has run between the two cities since before the new one opened.

Source: China Daily

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