August 10, 2011 / 3:00 PM / 8 years ago

China freezes new railway projects after high-speed train crash

A train employee prepares to enter a CRH (China Railway High-speed) Harmony bullet train at Beijing South Railway Station, July 25, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) - China plans to suspend new railway project approvals and launch safety checks on existing equipment to address growing public concern following a deadly crash between two high-speed trains last month, Premier Wen Jiabao was quoted as saying by state media Wednesday.

The government has struggled to address public fury over a July 23 crash near the booming coastal city of Wenzhou that killed at least 40 people after one high-speed train apparently rammed into another one stranded on the track, prompting question marks over technology promoted as a symbol of the nation’s growing prowess.

Wen told the state council, China’s cabinet, in a regular meeting that checks will be conducted on the quality of equipment, the design and staff training on existing high-speed projects and those under construction, according to state radio.

China should “appropriately reduce the average speed of new high-speed trains at their early stage of operation,” Wen said.

Wen said a working group established by the state council will fully investigate the cause of the crash. He visited the site in late July and vowed a thorough and transparent investigation.

The railways ministry is still investigating the cause of the accident. It has ordered a two-month safety review of railway operations, though a Chinese railway research institute has taken responsibility for a flaw in signaling equipment as the cause of the crash.

Reporting by Aileen Wang and Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Ed Lane

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