China slows down high-speed trains

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The Independent Travel

China's rail minister said the nation's high-speed trains will run at a slower pace than previously announced, to make journeys safer and more affordable.

The new high-speed trains will run no faster than 300 kilometres (186 miles) per hour instead of the current top speed of 350 kilometres per hour, Sheng Guangzu said in an interview posted Thursday on the ministry's website.

Sheng's comments come after the fall in February of railways minister Liu Zhijun, who allegedly took more than 800 million yuan ($122 million) in kickbacks on contracts linked to expanding China's high-speed rail network.

Starting in July, trains on high-speed lines will run between 200 kilometres per hour and 300 kilometres per hour, Sheng said in the interview first published in the Communist party mouthpiece the People's Daily on Wednesday.

The move means trains using the line linking the southern city Guangzhou and central Wuhan city, which launched in 2009, will have to cut their speed as they already travel at 350 kilometres an hour.

The line connecting Beijing and Shanghai - due to start running later this year - was also supposed to travel at that speed.

The change will make operations of high-speed railways safer and train tickets more affordable, Sheng said, following complaints over pricing.

"We must manage the scale of construction reasonably. There should be some overstepping in construction of railway, but not too much," he was quoted as saying.

Sheng said China is investing 2.8 trillion yuan between 2011 and 2015 in construction of new railway lines of about 30,000 kilometres.

China has invested heavily in its high-speed rail network, which reached 8,358 kilometres at the end of 2010 and is expected to exceed 13,000 kilometres by 2012 and 16,000 kilometres by 2020.