Tens of thousands stranded after trains collide on subway line

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 December, 2009, 12:00am

Shanghai's subway system was thrown into chaos yesterday after two trains collided before the morning rush hour, raising fears that safety may have been compromised in the rush to upgrade the network for next year's World Expo.

Tens of thousands of passengers were left stranded when Line 1 - the backbone of the network - was closed for nearly six hours.

The incident caused the most serious disruption in Shanghai Metro's 16-year history, with some passengers stuck in subway carriages for more than three hours. No one was injured.

It was the system's second breakdown in two days. On Monday, a power outage brought Line 2 to a standstill for 10 minutes.

A subway spokesman said the affected line resumed operation at about lunchtime, after they dragged out two damaged trains from the station. He explained that it took them so long because they had to first make sure all passengers trapped inside had been rescued.

The spokesman did not say how many people had been in the train.

In a statement posted on its website, the company said the accident happened at about 7am, shortly after the line resumed following a power failure an hour earlier.

It said the incident occurred when one train carrying passengers backed into an empty one due to a communication error.

No one was injured as the trains were travelling at 'relatively low speeds' at the time, it said.

The network carries four million people each day, and is expected to carry six million by 2012, the Xinmin Evening News reported.

The problems have raised concerns about safety standards in the infrastructure binge that has preceded the World Expo, which is due to open in May.

Another three lines will be completed ahead of the Expo, and the city is targeting 500 kilometres of lines by 2012 to become the world's biggest underground-transit network.

Between 2001 and 2006, Shanghai invested 438 billion yuan (HK$497 billion) in infrastructure. The budget for the Expo includes 18 billion yuan for venue construction and an operating fund of 10.6 billion yuan.

A series of construction accidents has heightened concerns that projects are being rushed. In September, an unfinished residential building in Minhang district toppled over and killed a worker. An investigation discovered that builders had started to dig an underground car park without examining the foundations.

Additional reporting by Minnie Chan