China says negligence caused Shanghai subway crash

A Shanghai subway train crash last week was caused by negligence and three subway employees have been removed from their posts, the city's safety authorities said.

Nine other subway train managers and workers were also punished for negligence that led one train to crash into a stationary train on Sept. 27, injuring around 290 passengers, the Shanghai Administration of Work Safety said in a report Thursday.

The administration said that an investigation found that a loss of power caused the signal system to fail and that train dispatchers then issued a number of wrong orders that led to the crash. The affected line — Line 10 — operated by Shanghai Shentong Metro Group is one of Shanghai's newest and most modern.

The subway crash was a shock for Shanghai, a city of 23 million that had its entire transport infrastructure — roads, airports, ports, tunnels and subways — upgraded ahead of the city's 2010 World Expo.

The report said Shanghai Shentong's first mistake was in authorizing repair work at a station without having a backup plan in case it disrupted the power supply. The repair work caused a loss of power to the station that led the signaling system to fail.

Subway operators then had to direct trains on Line 10 via phone instead of electronic signals and ordered a train to stop in a tunnel between two stations.

About half an hour later, another train started out from one of the stations and headed toward the halted train at a speed of up to 54 kilometers per hour (34 mph), until the driver saw the stationary train and immediately tried to brake. It crashed into the stationary train at a speed of 35 kph (22 mph).

High-tech automatic train protection systems are designed to improve safety while allowing more trains to travel within shorter intervals. Normally such systems prevent crashes by controlling train speeds and signaling the presence of any other trains on the line.

The three employees who were removed from their posts were Zhu Limin, vice director of Shentong Group's dispatching department, and Tang Zhihua and Kuo Kang, respectively the chief and vice manager of Line 10's dispatching center.

The subway crash occurred just two months after two bullet trains in east China's Zhejiang Province crashed, killing 40 people and injuring 177. The July 23 accident exposed festering resentments over the huge costs of the country's massive buildup of its rail system, especially its high-speed lines.

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