Plan launched to improve rail travel
By Xin Dingding (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-04-15 10:14

Drills to prepare for fires, explosions and mass incidents at large train stations in Olympic host cities and areas most at risk from terrorism will be carried out this year, the Ministry of Railways said last week.

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Exercises to prepare for chaotic situations, such as a breakdown of the ticket sales system, train dispatch system or capital management system, are also planned, spokesman Wang Yongping said.

In addition, five projects to improve railway safety and management will get under way this year, he said. The projects are an inspection system for the new 300-kmh passenger railway between Beijing and Tianjin, a gale warning system to protect against trains being blown off their tracks, a video surveillance system, a railway information sharing platform, and an emergency response training base.

"The projects will enhance the railway department's capabilities to handle extreme weather events, such as blizzards, typhoons and floods," Wang said.

The increased attention on emergency-handling measures comes after a crisis in January in which blizzards paralyzed many railways, highways and airlines in southern China.

The public laid much of the blame for the subsequent chaos at the doors of government transportation departments, saying they were unprepared. It was particularly critical of the Ministry of Railways.

Guo Xiling, vice-chairman of the Guangzhou committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, was also critical of the ministry.

Many electric trains were unable to run when power lines snapped under the weight of snow, stranding thousands of passengers either on trains or at stations.

While deadlines for the completion of four of the new projects have yet to be set, the establishment of the information-exchange platform for use by the ministry, railway bureaus and train stations will be completed by the end of the year, Wang said.

"The ministry will organize inspection teams in the fourth quarter to ensure all is going to plan," he said.

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