China says 12 punished for Shanghai subway crash

AP News
Posted: Oct 07, 2011 3:39 AM
China says 12 punished for Shanghai subway crash

A subway crash in Shanghai that injured nearly 300 people resulted from negligence, inadequate training and faulty installation of backup power systems, the city's safety agency said. It announced penalties for a dozen subway employees.

Three train operators were removed from their posts, the Shanghai Administration of Work Safety said Thursday, while nine other subway system managers and workers were also punished for the crash of one subway train into another on Sept. 27.

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. It 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.

The Shanghai accident highlights some of the risks of hasty construction and deployment of showcase infrastructure, especially given China's poor track record for industrial safety.

The affected line _ Line 10 _ operated by Shanghai Shentong Metro Group, is one of Shanghai's newest and most modern.

A loss of power on the line during repairs caused the signal system to fail and dispatchers then issued faulty orders that caused one train to rear end another as it sat still on the tracks in an area near the city's scenic Yuyuan Garden.

The report said Shanghai Shentong's first mistake was in authorizing repair work at a station without having a contingency 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.

"Shanghai Shentong should be people-oriented, put safety first, and draw deep lessons from the accident," the report said. It said the metro operator would face maximum financial penalties for its lapses, without giving any details.

"Bitter experience, deep reflection," Shanghai Shentong said in a notice on its blog that outlined a slew of measures, especially focused on training, management and use of the subway safety systems.

Several of Shanghai Shentong's managers were held responsible for negligent management or failure to provide adequate training to subway operators.

The report also cited problems with installation of backup power from uninterrupted power supply _ UPS _ equipment, which should have kicked in to prevent any lengthy power outages.

With the power out, subway operators then chose 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).

Although the train was crowded at the mid-afternoon time of the crash, the relatively slow speed helped to reduce injuries, most of which were light and not life-threatening, according to city officials.

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 supplier of the signaling system for the line _ a joint venture between a local company and France's Alstom SA _ denied earlier claims by the subway operator that its equipment malfunctioned, saying the crash had nothing to do with its system.

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.


Associated Press writer Gillian Wong in Beijing contributed.