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Crash may dash China's bullet train expansion plan
Chinese govt went all out to ensure massive publicity to the June 30 launch of the Beijing-Shanghai fast train.
Beijing: China's first bullet train crash, less than a month after the launch of Beijing-Shanghai train with much fanfare may dash Beijing's multi-billion dollar plans to expand high speed train network at home besides making the technology a mainstay of its future exports.
Chinese government went all out to ensure massive publicity to the June 30 launch of the Beijing-Shanghai fast train which covered the distance of over 1300 km in less than five hours with five star comforts.
The service launched in a hurry to show as a major achievement of the country coinciding with the 90th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party of China, (CPC) soon raised hackles as the trains started stopping suddenly mid way often on high rise bridges due to power failures, causing panic and anger among passengers.
The breakdowns added immense pressure on tightly controlled state media as coverage was taken over by 197 million strong microblog media with highly damaging posting by passengers narrating the pain and panic which stretched to hours without air-conditioning.
Saturday night's crash of a bullet train travelling over 300 kmph crashing into another one which stuck on the track due to power failure caused by "lightening" that too on a high rise bridge created perhaps the "worst case scenario" for the future bullet trains at home.
The blog posts last night full of public worries about the trains and criticism about the way Chinese government went about launching them.
A netizen called Su Yan doubted the safety of high-speed trains.
"Who dares to take bullet trains or high-speed trains?" Su Yan said.
"The operational safety of China's railways is seriously challenged, and it'll be a long and tough process to earn customers' trust again," his posting carried by official Xinhua said.
"China should not only learn technologies but also management," said Ma Xiaolin, a well-known public commentator.
The bullet trains has "generated more complaints than compliments because of continuous breakdowns in the first two weeks of operation", the state run China Daily said in its report about Saturday's crash.
One blogger said, "I believe this is an act of sabotage of foreign enemies who are not happy with the progress of China".
China has planned to build a 13,000-km high-speed railway network by 2012, 16000 km by 2020.
Plans are afoot to increase the speed of the trains to 500 kmph radically reducing the travel time between the cities.
According to the National Audit Office the Ministry of Railways currently burdened with 1.3 trillion yuan ($ 200 billion) in debt in 2009, with 854.8 billion yuan in short-term debt and 448.6 billion yuan in long-term debt.
China has plans to cash in on the technology with plans to export it but the campaign came under cloud after Japanese company Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. threatened to take action if China files for patents on high-speed trains made using Japanese technologies.
Chinese engineers, however, denied it saying that their was 300 km high speed technology while Japan's was around 200 km.
Reports in the Chinese official media recently said China got orders to export 228 bullet trains to Malaysia to develop intercity transportation for Kuala Lumpur.
Cai Chengping, director of the Tokyo-based Asia-Pacific Political and Economic Research Center, said Japan had suffered similar train derailing, but the safety condition improved a lot afterwards.
"China should learn from Japan on dealing with accidents," he said.
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