High Speed Train Collision Results in Firing Three Top Aides in China

VIDEO: Chinese government under fire for its handling of high-speed train accident.
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Three top railroad officials have been fired following the deadly collision involving two of China's high speed trains whose accelerated construction had raised fears that safety had been sacrificed in the rush to complete rail projects.

Those fears seemed to be borne out this weekend when a a lightning strike caused electrical malfunctions leading to the collision of two high speed trains killing 38 people and injuring 190. This is the worst accident for the country's high speed trains which began service in 2007.

The country's transportation authority has called for an overhaul of transportation safety and dismissed three top officials: the head of the Shanghai railway bureau, his deputy, and the bureau's Communist Party chief. The railway ministry said that all three will also be subject to further investigation.

China railway expansion is a huge project which was meant to be a crown jewel of the country's development and is already the country's priciest infrastructure project in history. The country aims to have 10,000 miles of high speed rail by 2020.

Earlier this month China inaugurated its bullet train service between Beijing and Shanghai, and did it in two and a half years instead of the planned five years so that it would be ready in time for the Chinese Communist Party's 90th birthday. That fete of construction, some worried, came at the expense of safety measures.

Despite Saturday's accident, railway ministry spokesman Wang Yongping insisted, "China's high-speed rail technology is up to date and up to standard, and we still have faith in it."

High Speed Train Collision Questions Safety of China's Rails

Some passengers weren't so sure. At Beijing's South Station today, some passengers expressed worries about safety.

"After hearing about the train crash occurring because of a lightning strike, I wanted to change my ticket to avoid today's storms," a woman identifying herself has Ms. Wang said. "But my husband and I decided we couldn't let one incident change our plans for taking the train."

Another woman who only gave her surname, Lu, was also afraid of thunder storms and power outages, and wanted to take a flight instead, but couldn't change her ticket because she was travelling with a tourist group.

"I'd prefer a different mode of transportation because the [Beijing-Shanghai] line isn't in normal operation. There were more than three times that electrical problems happened on the line [since it started]. That isn't normal," she said.

That is a change from last week when ABC News talked to passengers boarding the new bullet train.

"I don't worry about safety or delay," said one passenger waiting for the train last week, unfazed by repeated equipment malfunctions that stopped trains in its first few weeks of service. "It's unlikely there will be more problems. And look at how many people have chosen to take the train."

Another passenger was less confident. "I don't worry about safety, but I do worry about being delayed," she said at the time.

In addition to electrical problems, speed has been a point of contention surrounding the trains, with some saying the government exaggerated the speed of their prized high-speed line.

Originally planned to run at 235 mph, the target goal was lowered to 217 mph, and trains are operating now at two speeds: 185 and 125 mph.

Fast Construction Raises Safety Fears on China's High Speed Rails

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