Errant Chinese smoker stops world's fastest train

BEIJING Wed Dec 30, 2009 11:07am EST

BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - The world's fastest train hit its first speed bump in the form of a disobedient smoker less than a week after it began running in southern China.

A cigarette triggered an alarm that forced a two-and-a-half hour stoppage, nearly as long as the train takes to cover the 1,100 kilometer (684 mile) distance between Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, and the central city of Wuhan.

Managers of the bullet train, which debuted on Saturday, were unable to catch the smoker who fled the scene before the alarm sounded, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.

"Smoking is strictly forbidden on the Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed train, even in the toilet," a spokesman with the Guangzhou Railway Group Corporation was quoted as saying. "It could trigger the alarm and even cause equipment failures."

The train was in the Guangzhou rail station when it was delayed and had not yet begun its 350-km-per-hour journey, Xinhua added.

(Reporting by Simon Rabinovitch; Editing by Alex Richardson)