Section of high-speed railway collapses

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2012, 12:00am


An unopened section of a high-speed railway in Hubei province has collapsed due to heavy rains - the latest in a string of mishaps to hit the network since the fatal collision last summer in Wenzhou .

There were no reports of injuries when the 300-metre section of rail line fell - just two months before its scheduled opening - but hundreds of workers have been toiling through the night to repair the stretch of damaged track over the weekend, local and state media reported.

Local Jinzhou TV reported late on Sunday night that a section of embankment on the recently built Hanyi High-Speed Railway had subsided on Friday, outside Haokou township, Qianjiang , roughly 150 kilometres west of the provincial capital, Wuhan .

A nearby resident told the station's reporter that trial runs of high-speed trains had started on the track earlier this month, but that the embankment had since come to pieces. The report's video showed mechanical diggers in the background working on the railway line.

The company responsible for the project yesterday dismissed the television station's report as 'dishonest'. Hu Han Rong Railway Hubei, told the news portal that the line was undergoing pre-service testing 'according to plan' and that the repair work was simply 'routine adjustments'.

However, Hubei TV later reported that parts of the embankment had been reinforced and quoted a 'knowledgeable source' as saying the damage had been caused by rain.

The Time Weekly magazine reported earlier this month that corner-cutting on the line had resulted in safety concerns, prophetically warning that heavy rains could cause a collapse as some gravel foundations had been replaced with earth.

Hu Han Rong Railway could not be reached for comment yesterday and staff answering telephones at China Railway 12th Bureau Group - the firm reported responsible for the construction - declined to comment.

The Han-Yi high-speed line, which links Wuhan to Yichang as part of the Shanghai-to-Changsha connection, was due to start carrying passengers in May.

The Ministry of Railways has been the focus of intense criticism after extensive corruption was exposed early last year, resulting in former railways minister Liu Zhijun being placed under investigation.

The high-speed railway network had at first been hailed as a national success story after a rapid expansion and billions of yuan in investment.

However, serious doubts began to emerge after a series of high-profile stoppages on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed link just days after it went into operation on July 1, followed by the Wenzhou crash on July 23, which claimed at least 40 lives.

In the aftermath of the Wenzhou collision - which was blamed on faulty signalling equipment and managerial incompetence - officials slowed development, but a slew of other troubles have since come to light.