Dec. 28 (Bloomberg) -- China punished 54 officials and ordered the railway ministry to improve management of its high- speed rail system after a government investigation found a fatal train crash was caused by mismanagement and design flaws.
Former railway minister Liu Zhijun and Zhang Shuguang, former deputy chief engineer at the ministry, are among those who bear “primary leadership responsibility” for the accident in July, according to a statement issued by the State Council after a meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao today. Liu and Zhang were fired earlier this year and are under investigation for “serious violations of laws and discipline,”
The government has already reduced the speed of bullet trains, delayed new projects and fired three officials in the Shanghai Rail Bureau following the July 23 crash that killed 40 people. The moves and concern the government may slow 2.8 trillion yuan ($443 billion) of rail investment plans caused rail-related companies including China Railway Group Ltd. and CSR Corp. to plunge in Hong Kong in the first two months after crash.
The accident, near the eastern city of Wenzhou, happened when a train collided into a stationary locomotive, pushing four carriages off a viaduct. A lightning strike caused the train signaling equipment to malfunction, according to today’s statement.
Staff at the Shanghai railway bureau also failed to respond properly after the equipment malfunctioned, the statement said.
The railway ministry and the Shanghai railway bureau released information in an untimely way and didn’t respond properly to concerns about the rescue operation, which resulted in “bad” social influences, according to the statement.
Wen pledged a greater focus on rail safety and an “independent” investigation during a visit to the crash site on July 28. The State Council also called for safety checks on other sites, including coal mines, roads and bridges in the days after the crash.
--Zheng Lifei. Editors: Nicholas Wadhams, Vipin Nair
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