China’s State Council said an investigation into the deadly high-speed rail wreck that roiled the country this past summer found “the train crash was caused by major design flaws in train operating equipment, relaxed safety controls and poor emergency response to equipment failure,” the official news agency Xinhua reported.
The government said 54 people involved in the July 23 crash, in which a high-speed train plowed into a stalled train near the city of Wenzhou in the eastern province of Zhejiang, “will be punished,” including the country’s former railway minister, Liu Zhijun, and the railway ministry’s deputy chief engineer, Zhang Shuguang. The crash left 40 people dead and injured at least 172 and led to widespread criticism of the rail program.
“Liu and Zhang, together with Ma Cheng, chairman of board at China Railway Signal and Communication Corp. (CRSC), producer of the the railway signaling system, were chiefly responsible for the crash,” the investigation determined, according to Xinhua. Liu had been removed from his position even before the Wenzhou crash, and both he and Zhang were taken into custody after the crash. Ma died of a heart attack shortly after the accident.
The crash report’s release came just a few days after China announced it had tested a train that reaches speeds of 500 kilometers per hour (310 mph). Xinhua said the new train (pictured above) from CSR “has a maximum tractive power of 22,800 kilowatts, compared with 9,600 kilowatts for the CRH380 trains currently in service on the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway,” which travel at speeds approaching 300 kilometers per hour (186 mph).
Adding further to the complex high-speed rail picture in China, Xinhau said last week that spending on rail infrastructure in 2012 would decline to 400 billion yuan (62.99 billion U.S. dollars), off from the 469 billion yuan spent this year and a huge decline from 2010 spending that exceeded 700 billion yuan. “China’s railway projects have been on a binge since the country rolled out a stimulus plan worth four trillion yuan to counter the financial crisis of 2008, which was mostly spent on infrastructure construction,” Xinhua reported. “But the sector has been hit hard in the second half of 2011, after the government tightened liquidity control, and the deadly train collision eroded investor confidence and limited the ministry’s ability to borrow money or sell bonds.”