China fires top officials in wake of railway crash

by Jessica MCILHINNEY on July 25, 2011

The Chinese government has been forced into firing three of its senior railway officials, after a high-speed rail crash left 35 people dead.

Services of 58 additional trains have also been halted while calls for nationwide safety checks have been made. The accident is just the latest in a string of problems for China’s high-speed rail network, which has had its name dogged by controversies, some of which involve accusations of corruption.

At the weekend, two coaches of a train fell off a bridge upon derailing near to Wenzhou, Zhejiang province. China’s railway ministry says it has sacked the head of Shanghai’s railway bureau, in addition to his deputy and the Communist Party chief of the bureau. As leaders, ultimate responsibility must be taken by them for the main causes of the accident, insisted Wang Yongping, a railway ministry spokesman.

The accident has occurred at a time when the world’s most populous country has been pumping billions of dollars into building a high-speed network. In June, it inaugurated its Beijing-Shanghai link, which will reduce travel time between what are its two largest cities by half.

Rather than being an expected success, the project has been the recipient of widespread criticism for various reasons, such as high costs, and safety issues even prior to the weekend’s tragedy. While Chinese officials have publicly reiterated the faith they have in the newly-unveiled high-speed network, shares of rail equipment makers in the country fell and overall investor confidence has been dented.

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