China has ordered a series of safety checks on its high-speed railway network, and for services to run at slower speeds. State news agency, Xinhua reported that the decision was made at a meeting of the country’s State Council, presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao. The project will cover high-speed railways that are both in operation and under construction, and will focus on design and equipment quality, and operation safety. The directive also ordered services on newly-built high-speed rail lines to run at slower speeds during the early stages of their operations.
The move follows a series of failures on China’s high-speed rail network in recent months, culminating in the fatal crash of two high-speed services in Zhejiang province late last month. The incident, which killed 40 passengers, was put down to a signal failure following a lightning strike, but questions have been raised with regards to the fast-track roll-out of China’s high-speed rail network.
Also this week, China’s state-owned high-speed trainmaker, China CNR Corp was ordered by the country’s Ministry of Railways to suspend train deliveries. The company said an automatic braking system installed in its trains had caused delays on the high-profile Beijing-Shanghai line. The system was reportedly causing trains to slow down or stop unnecessarily. The Beijing-Shanghai line, which was only launched on 30 June, was brought to a halt three times in the space of a week last month.
China’s bullet trains have already had their top speeds cut once this year; in April newly-installed Minister of Railways, Sheng Guangzu decreed that the services’ top operating speed should be reduced from 350 to 300kph.