Officials hit the rails for safety investigation

Updated: 2011-09-07 10:12

By Tan Zongyang (China Daily)

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BEIJING - The Ministry of Railways said on Sept 5 that more than one-third of its officials have been dispatched to its grassroots units to conduct a thorough investigation of rail safety.

The move is another attempt by the ministry to fix the nation's railway loopholes.

"At the moment, we should prioritize the task to ensure the railway system's security and stability, improving the style of work and going down to the grassroots to solve problems," the ministry said.

The 318 officials - 78 in senior positions - come from 21 different departments.

The announcement on the ministry's website also said that 51 officials are now working with the inspection group on high-speed railway safety, which was set up by the State Council to eliminate risks on high-speed railways.

Last month, Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang urged a thorough overhaul of the country's high-speed railways. Zhang said checks will run from mid-August to mid-September to ensure the safety of rail traffic.

The nation's high-speed railway system was questioned after a bullet train rear-ended another on a line near the eastern city of Wenzhou on July 23, leaving 40 people dead and nearly 200 injured.

The tragedy forced railway authorities to take comprehensive measures to tame public concerns over rail traffic safety, including lowering the speeds of high-speed trains and making a nationwide adjustment of train schedules last month.

Sheng Guangzu, the railways minister, said earlier that those decisions were aimed to "accumulate safety management experience".

According to the ministry, officials will be divided into more than 40 sub-groups to inspect railway construction, transportation, public security and many other aspects.

In addition, police will initiate specific tasks to strengthen security checks in high-speed railway stations in 10 cities, including Beijing.

The ministry said eight liaison officers will be in charge of collecting results from investigators. They will then instruct local railway bureaus and companies to rectify problems once they are uncovered.