Report Blames Control System Flaws for Chinese High-Speed Rail Crash

The July 2011 crash was one of the biggest stories of the year in China, and it triggered widespread public anger over the government’s building program and commitment to public safety.

Construction of high-speed lines continues at a blistering pace in China, with a Dec. 30 Xinhua report saying a $1.4 billion high-speed line has been approved that will link the city of Xi'an with its airport, currently an hour's trip away by train. The line will halve that trip's time, according to the report, which came two days after authorities completed their investigation of a July 23, 2011, crash of a high-speed train into a stalled train near the city of Wenzhou. The crash killed 40 people, injured 172, and sparked widespread public anger in China about the national government's building program and commitment to public safety.

The investigation occurred after one high-speed train was struck by lightning, lost power, and stalled on a Sunday evening. The second train rammed into it, causing four cars to derail and fall from a bridge. The Dec. 28 final investigative report blamed flaws in the trains' operational control systems and inadequate emergency response by railroad authorities, according to the Xinhua news agency.

It reported both Liu Zhijun, the former railway minister, and Zhang Shuguang, the railway ministry's deputy chief engineer, are among 54 people found responsible for the crash. Both were removed from their posts earlier this year, according to the report, which said police and prosecutors continue to investigate whether any criminal violations were involved in the crash.

The Ministry of Railways is paying about $145,000 in U.S. dollars as compensation for each victim of the crash.

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