Thu, Jul 14, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Chinese high-speed rail fails to wow passengers

DIY:Passengers on the newly unveiled rail line between Beijing and Shanghai were told at a station to go to a nearby village to buy toilet paper

Reuters, BEIJING

Two weeks since its grand opening that showed off China’s hopes for a bright high-tech future, the flaghip high-speed rail line between Beijing and Shanghai has already left passengers stranded for hours on stuffy trains due to power outages.

Travelers waiting for delayed trains also found that the gleaming new stations along the line lacked snack shops and comfortable waiting rooms. An attendant told one waiting passenger to walk to a nearby village to buy toilet paper.

The express was shut down by power failures twice in 48 hours since it opened to great fanfare on June 30. A power cut on Tuesday halted 30 trains.

The first cut on Sunday was caused by lightning hitting the overhead line, while the second remained unexplained, the China Daily reported, though it could have been linked to poor wiring or improper installation.

“That malfunctions occur on such a long line when it has been operating for less than two weeks is inevitable and understandable,” the newspaper quoted Beijing Jiaotong University engineering professor Wu Junyong as saying.

“Such malfunctions will become less common after it has been operating for a while longer,” Wu said.

The train cuts travel time on the 1,318km run from the capital to China’s financial center to a mere four hours on a good day.

However, the Ministry of Railways has already decided to reduce maximum speed on the line from the promised 350kph, to reduce operating costs and in response to a corruption investigation that raised concerns over construction quality.

The power failures have been panned on popular microblogging sites. Passengers complained about being stranded for hours on trains with no air conditioning and with no one telling them what was happening.

The Beijing-Shanghai link is the latest and most feted portion of a network the government hopes will stretch more than 45,000km by the end of 2015.

The Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily warned yesterday that the new Beijing-Shanghai line had to up its game.

“Just relying on high speed is not enough. We must ask: has there been enough preparation for inclement weather?” it said. “In the event of power cuts and delays, how do you take care of passengers and bear the losses?”

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