Rail officials criticised over Guangzhou New Year debacle

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2008, 12:00am

Railway authorities have been criticised by members of Guangzhou's People's Congress and its advisory body for the transport chaos that left hundreds of thousands of passengers stranded during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Guo Xiling, vice-chairman of the city's Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, lashed out at the Ministry of Railways at a conference on Saturday, saying 'someone should be sacked' to take responsibility, media reported.

'Two authorities should be blamed this time, one being the meteorological authorities for failing to forecast the severity of the weather. But the Ministry of Railways made a bigger mistake,' the New Express quoted Mr Guo as saying.

He said the ministry sold train tickets when it was aware that snowstorms had caused blackouts in Zhuzhou and Hengyang in Hunan , almost paralysing transport from Guangdong to Hunan, and that power supplies would not be restored for days.

Mr Guo said rail officials exacerbated the problem with an empty vow after Premier Wen Jiabao visited Guangzhou station that all passengers would be able to go home before the New Year, prompting thousands more workers to flood the station.

The country's biggest snowstorms in more than five decades hit Hunan and Hubei worst, blocking transport between Beijing and Guangdong for almost two weeks.

Liu Jingjun , head of Guangzhou's Transportation Police Department and a Guangzhou People's Congress deputy, also criticised the railway authorities for making the police task more difficult by not sharing information on ticket sales and delays.

The situation did not improve until officials from Guangdong's Communist Party committee intervened to calm the angered and frustrated travellers.