China has put the brakes on new high-speed railway construction in the wake of the fatal Wenzhou crash on July 23 that left 40 people dead. A meeting of the State Council has confirmed the safety review and slower running speeds already imposed on the network, which is blighted by safety concerns and corruption scandals. The safety review applies to projects approved but on which work hasn’t started, in effect a temporary halt to new projects. Ticket prices, another contentious point with the traveling public, will also be cut on the now slower high-speed lines.
Meanwhile, the FT reports that China Railway Group, the country’s largest railway builder, has dropped plans to raise 6.2 billion yuan ($969 million) of new capital via a share placement. Separately, CNR Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., a leading rolling stock manufacturer, said it would halt delivery of its CRH380 trains, used on the Beijing-Shanghai line and on some of which the sensors of the automatic safety system have proved faulty. The company is also recalling the 24 of the 112 trains ordered that have already been delivered for what it calls a ‘technical overhaul’.
There is no indication that China will abandon its commitment to expanding its high-speed rail network once it has sorted out the safety issues, though the speed of the build-out, like the trains, will likely go slower.