China to open world's longest high-speed rail line

Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:06am EST
 
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BEIJING/ZHENGZHOU, China (Reuters) - China will open the world's longest high-speed rail line next week when a link between Beijing and the southern metropolis of Guangzhou is inaugurated, officials said on Saturday, underscoring its commitment to a trouble-plagued transport scheme.

The 2,298-km (1,428-mile) line, parts of which are already in operation, will begin full service on Wednesday, halving travel time to less than 10 hours on trains which will run at 300 kph (186 mph).

The new route offers a chance for China's railways ministry, which has been dogged by scandals and missteps, to redeem itself.

A July 2011 crash of a high-speed train killed 40 people and raised concerns about the safety of the fast-growing network and threatened plans to export high-speed technology.

"We have developed a full range of effective measures to manage safety," Zhou Li, head of the ministry's science and technology department, told reporters on a trial run from Beijing to the central city of Zhengzhou.

"We can control safety management," he added.

Last year's accident near the booming eastern coastal city of Wenzhou occurred when a high-speed train rammed into another stranded on the track after being hit by lightning.

Rail investment slowed sharply in the wake of that accident and state media reported earlier this year that the government had cut planned railway investment by 500 billion yuan ($80.27 billion) to 2.3 trillion yuan under a five-year plan to 2015.

But that may reflect cuts that have already taken place as the Ministry of Railways has raised its planned investment budget three times this year as part of government efforts to bolster a slowing economy.   Continued...

 
An attendant stands inside a high-speed train during an organized experience trip from Beijing to Zhengzhou, as part of a new rail line, December 22, 2012. China will open the world's longest high-speed rail line next week when a link between Beijing and the southern metropolis of Guangzhou is inaugurated, officials said on Saturday. REUTERS/China Daily