10 days' training, long hours for drivers in focus
Mainland internet users are raising questions about high-speed train drivers' short training period and long working hours following the fatal crash in Wenzhou .
Many drew attention to a state media report late last year about a driver who was given just 10 days to learn how to drive the first Chinese high-speed train. His German instructor had expected a training period of several months.
The report was posted on the mainland's most influential microblog service, Sina Weibo, and was viewed by thousands.
Li Dongxiao, who got the first mainland driving licence for high-speed trains, was told by his superiors that he and nine other drivers had to learn how to drive the trains within 10 days, according to a report in People's Daily last December. The German instructor said the skills could not be mastered until drivers had two to three months of training.
The 10 drivers underwent training for the first high-speed trains on the mainland for the Beijing-Tianjin route, which had started trial runs on July 1, 2008, in preparation for the Beijing Olympics in August.
Wang Mengshu, a railways expert and a professor at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said the haste in developing high-speed trains had caused problems.
'It's not an easy process to train a driver strictly by standards. Usually this takes three to five years and it needs another two years for one to be promoted from an assistant to a real driver,' Wang was quoted as saying by Science Times on Monday.
'Now so many new lines have been added [to the railway system] and we're very short of drivers. Many of them are inexperienced,' he said.
A shortage of manpower had also led to drivers being overworked, Wang said, noting that many of them did not have proper rest.
According to regulations, one driver is required for a trip of less than four hours. Longer trips require two drivers to alternate.
However, there was only one driver working on the train - which had a journey time of over 13 hours - that crashed into the rear of another train. according to a statement from the Ministry of Railways on last Saturday's crash.
The driver was found dead in his cabin following the accident. He had switched on an emergency brake at the last minute but the pedal had speared into his chest.