'Faulty' signal system in use at 58 stations

The signalling system blamed for playing a part in the fatal high-speed-train crash in Wenzhou is being used in at least 58 railway stations on the mainland, a high-ranking official was reported as saying.

Deputy Railways Minister Peng Kaizhou said on Thursday during the first meeting of the State Council-appointed investigation team that 58 railway stations and 18 repeater stations were using the same signalling system as the Wenzhou South railway station, where the malfunction is said to have occurred, the Beijing Times reports.

In operation since September 2009, the Yongtaiwen rail line, which runs between Ningbo and Wenzhou South, is equipped with lineside signals overlaid with the China Train Control System-2 (CTCS-2).

The system was designed by the Beijing National Railway Research and Design Institute of Signal and Communication, a subsidiary of the China Railway Signal and Communication Corporation, which is a state-owned giant formerly controlled by the Ministry of Railways.

The system is used for mixed-rail-traffic operations with a maximum speed of 250 km/h.

The corporation has a monopoly on the railway-signalling industry through the use of its CTCS-2 system as well as the CTCS-3, used on faster lines.

Those signalling systems are used on many high-speed-train lines, including those between Beijing and Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin, Wuhan and Guangzhou, Harbin and Dalian, and on the Guangzhou-Shenzhen line which will extend to Hong Kong.

Yang Wanzhi, spokesman for the China Railway Signal and Communication Corporation, said the company sent experts to Wenzhou for the State Council investigation. It also sent technical support to railway bureaus to help in control rooms and computer centres.

An Lusheng, the newly appointed chief of the Shanghai Railway Bureau, on Thursday blamed the crash on 'design flaws' in the signalling system, as well as on dispatchers who did not send any warnings after a lightning strike caused a malfunction in the lighting system, according to Xinhua.

Dispatchers at the Wenzhou station failed to realise in time that there was a problem, An said.

Zhao Xu, a researcher with the China Centre for Public-Private Partnerships, suggested that all high-speed trains be stopped until the official investigation into the tragedy is concluded, given that the Shanghai Railway Bureau chief attributed the crash to problems in the signalling system.

'If there is a design flaw, it means the case is not isolated and might affect all the high-speed lines,' Zhao said. 'The trains should be stopped until the investigation discovers what went wrong.'

Additional reporting by Priscilla Jiao