A high-speed Chinese train ran through a group of maintenance workers in the dark on Wednesday, killing 18 and injuring nine in the nation's worst railway accident in years, state media said yesterday.
The train was traveling from Beijing to Qingdao when it hit the workers, who were on their way to build new tracks near Anqiu in Shandong Province.
But they had arrived on the site 20 minutes ahead of schedule, when passing trains were still running at up to 120kph, rather than the 45kph maximum for passing through areas under maintenance, state media said.
They violated safety regulations by "using the railway as a shortcut," an official with the railway construction company in charge of the project said.
State TV reports said the workers had "forcibly" entered the railway perimeter.
The official said a fence lock had been smashed.
"It is so unfortunate and so strange that they were walking along the only one of four lines expecting a train at the time," he said.
The stretch of railway line is in a rural area far from stations.
"The injured had been hospitalized and were in a stable condition and the transportation of the railway had resumed after a short suspension," Xinhua news agency quoted the Railway Ministry as saying.
No passengers on the train were killed or injured, said a ministry official, who declined to be identified. He did not explain why it took two days for the news to come to light.
The workers were employees of China Railway 16th Group, a state-owned firm that does contract work for the ministry.