Railway head is replaced following accident

Updated: 2011-10-17 11:45

By Xin Dingding (China Daily)

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BEIJING - A top Beijing Railway Bureau official was removed from his post following a train derailment last week, which is being viewed as a clear sign of the Ministry of Railways' resolution to improve safety.

Huang Guizhang, director of the Beijing Railway Bureau, was removed from his post on Thursday "for further assignment", Xinhua News Agency confirmed on Sunday. Two officials in charge of repair and maintenance at the Beijing Railway Bureau were also sacked.

The decision came three days after the locomotive of a passenger train, traveling from Hancheng in Shaanxi province to Beijing, derailed near Shijingshan South Station on Oct 10.

As the train was traveling at less than 30 kilometers an hour there were no casualties. The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

This small accident had a big impact because of its timing, a ministry source was quoted by 21st Century Business Herald as saying.

"As there is an unprecedented focus on safety now and the passenger train derailed a few days after the national travel peak at a place near Beijing The ministry leaders were very angry," the source said.

The derailment happened after a two-month national railway safety checkup, which was instigated after the July 23 high-speed train crash that left 40 dead, had just ended and while the ministry is in the middle of a campaign to correct problems.

Sheng Guangzu, the railways minister, summoned a meeting of railway officials the day after the accident and urged them to improve safety management to avoid any passenger train accident.

A ministry official confirmed to China Daily that Huang was given an administrative punishment at the meeting. But two days later, Huang, who has been head of Beijing Railway Bureau for three years, was sacked without any explicit reason being offered. He was replaced by He Yuhua, a member of the ministry's Party leadership group and chairman of the All-China Federation of Railway Workers' Unions.

The removal of Huang over a no-casualty derailment reflects the railways minister's tougher attitude toward railway safety issues, insiders said.

In the past, railway bureau chiefs such as Huang would receive only an administrative punishment when a major accident resulted in at least 30 deaths, or more than 100 injured, or a direct economic loss of 100 million yuan ($16 million), Beijing News reported.

But Sheng stressed at the meeting on Tuesday that the ministry would revise the existing measures and impose severer punishment on those found responsible for passenger train accidents.

Rong Chaohe, professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, said that railway safety can only be achieved after the ministry is reformed.

"Depriving the ministry of its responsibility of operating railways and making it focus on supervising the operating safety of the railways is the first issue that needs to be addressed to improve rail safety ," Rong said.

"The ministry cannot play in a game while being the judge at the same time."