Recalled trains back on tracks

Updated: 2011-11-15 08:02

By Xin Dingding (China Daily)

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BEIJING - The Ministry of Railways confirmed that 54 bullet trains previously recalled over safety concerns following a fatal bullet train crash in July will resume operations on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway.

"The modified CRH 380BL trains will be put into service gradually starting Wednesday, since they are deemed qualified after being tested, assessed by an independent party and approved by experts," the ministry said in a news release on Monday.

It also ordered the manufacturer to follow up the trains' performance and improve after-sale service, and also asked the operators to strengthen maintenance and management to ensure safe operation.

Recalled trains back on tracks

Produced by China CNR Corp, one of China's two major train makers, the trains were pulled from service on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway on Aug 12, some three weeks after 40 people were killed and nearly 200 others injured in a bullet train crash near Wenzhou in East China's Zhejiang province, an incident that triggered public fury in China.

Developed for the landmark high-speed railway with a top operation speed of 380 km/h, the recalled trains were not the same model as those involved in July's crash, but the recall was part of the government's efforts to soothe public concerns about the safety of the high-speed train service.

After the accident, the ministry launched a nationwide safety check on its high-speed railways to eliminate potential risks, and lowered the speed of its high-speed railway service.

The CRH 380BL model trains reportedly had a higher malfunction rate than allowed by the ministry, with a series of power outages and blackouts on the Beijing-Shanghai line in the first month of operations.

An official with CNR blamed sensors on its trains for being "too sensitive" so that they often gave false alarms and caused the power outages and blackouts.

Caixin Century magazine later reported the recall was also linked to fractures discovered in the trains' driving axles by ultrasonic inspections, which the ministry denied, saying it had been a false alarm and the German ultrasonic detector used was too sensitive.

CNR, however, said the recall was due to quality defects with outsourced parts and components, without naming the manufacturers in question.

"After a three-month process of modifications and repeated tests, previously reported problems with the CRH 380BL trains have all been fixed," an unnamed ministry official was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as saying.

The first six of the 54 recalled trains will resume service on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway on Wednesday.

"If everything goes well, all the recalled trains will resume service by Dec 6," he said.

After the news spread, some passengers commuting between the two major cities said they are still not able to put total confidence in the recalled trains.

"I have no other choice though I'm still worried about safety," said Chen Lili, 23, a college student who is often traveling between Beijing and Shanghai for job interviews.

"The recalled trains' safety can't be guaranteed just because the producer said so. They did not even give details about what problems they corrected," Chen said.

Netizens reacted with humorous caution, as a much-forwarded micro blog suggested those riding on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway "wear a helmet or bulletproof vest just in case".

Jin Huiyu contributed to this story.