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China bullet trains back in service after recall

Fifty-four bullet trains recalled after a deadly high-speed rail accident in China are to resume operation on the new Beijing-Shanghai line after problems were fixed, state media said on Monday.

world Updated: Nov 14, 2011 13:36 IST

Fifty-four bullet trains recalled after a deadly high-speed rail accident in China are to resume operation on the new Beijing-Shanghai line after problems were fixed, state media said on Monday.

The Chinese manufacturer of the trains pulled them from service over safety concerns weeks after July's crash in the eastern city of Wenzhou killed at least 40 people and injured nearly 200, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The recalled trains were not the same model as those involved in the Wenzhou crash but the move was part of a huge overhaul of the country's high-speed train network following the accident, which sparked widespread public fury.

The crash -- China's worst rail accident since 2008 -- triggered a flood of criticism of the railways ministry, already under a cloud for a corruption scandal that saw the removal of its boss earlier this year.

China has built the world's largest high-speed rail system from scratch in less than a decade, but the ministry has been accused of overlooking safety in its rush to develop the country's vast transport network.

In the weeks following the accident, authorities announced a halt to new train projects and introduced new speed restrictions on bullet train lines.

It also reduced the number of high-speed services between Beijing and Shanghai after recalling 54 bullet trains produced by state-owned manufacturer China CNR Corp for the line between China's capital and its commercial centre.

On Monday Xinhua said problems with the train had been identified and resolved, without saying what the problems were.

"After a three-month process of modifications and repeated tests, previously reported problems with the CRH 380BL trains have all been fixed," it quoted an unnamed railways ministry official as saying.

"Operations will gradually resume, starting from Wednesday. If everything goes well, all the recalled trains will resume service by December 6."

The heavily promoted new bullet train service between Beijing and Shanghai was launched in June amid much fanfare, but has been plagued by technical glitches and power cuts.

Even before the Wenzhou crash, take-up was slow, with less than a third of seats sold on some services.

The accident has also cast a cloud over Beijing's nascent high-speed rail manufacturing industry.

Earlier this year China CNR Corp said it had decided to suspend the delivery of its CRH 380BL bullet trains, citing flaws in their automatic braking systems.

CNR blamed the problems on quality defects with outsourced parts and components, without naming the manufacturers in question.

The Shanghai-listed shares of China CNR Corp ended the morning session up 0.98% at 5.14 yuan (81 cents), compared with a 1.63% gain in the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index.

CNR officials were not immediately available for comment when contacted by AFP on Monday.