The Ministry of Railways has dished out 'appropriate punishments' to officials who subcontracted a railway section to a construction team led by a chef with no prior experience of railway work, state media has reported. The move by the embattled ministry followed media reports last month of serious quality problems with the construction of a branch line in southern Jilin province. An investigation team set up by the ministry immediately after the reports concluded work on the Yusong line was 'a typical example of major negligence in construction quality', Xinhua reported yesterday. The scam involved fraudulent business contracts, repeated subcontracting of engineering projects and substandard construction, the state news agency reported. Media reports had earlier said that local rail officials had introduced personal contacts with negligible experience in railway or bridge building work to subcontract for the project, including one team headed by a chef. Projects that fell short of safety requirements would be torn down and built again, Xinhua reported. China Railway No 9 Group, the company responsible for the 2.3 billion yuan (HK$2.8 billion) rail link, has been ordered to bear 90 per cent of the cost of rebuilding 16 defective bridge pillars and had its rail-construction licence suspended for one year. Management officials linked to the project have been ordered to 'clear out of the [rail] market'. The remaining 10 per cent of the rebuilding costs are to be paid by Shenyang Railway Construction Supervision, which had been responsible for monitoring the project. Shenyang Railway Bureau came in for heavy criticism in the inspection team's report. An unspecified number of officials at the bureau were sacked, suspended, demoted or given 'other punishments', the Xinhua report added. The scandal involving the Yusong rail line is just the latest to hit the heavily indebted rail ministry.