Power Failure Briefly Halts China’s Showcase Rail Line

Posted July 11th, 2011 at 3:00 am (UTC-5)
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Less than two weeks after its high-profile opening, traffic on China's showcase high-speed rail link between Beijing and Shanghai has been halted by a storm-induced power failure.

The outage lasted for about 90 minutes Sunday evening, idling 19 trains on the southbound track. It was the first major malfunction since the line opened on June 30.

Several passengers complained on Twitter-like microblogs about conditions on the trains, which were left without lights or air conditioning. The China Daily newspaper quoted one blogger saying her carriage “is stifling, and there is a lack of oxygen.” Another wrote that passengers were beginning to “lose patience and become agitated.”

Officials blamed the power failure on thunderstorms and gales in Shandong province, about one-third of the way from Beijing to Shanghai.

The rail line opened with great fanfare at the end of June with a special advance run for senior officials and journalists. Travelling at 300 kilometers per hour, the line radically cuts travel time between China's capital and its financial hub, covering the roughly 1,300 kilometers in less than five hours.

The Ministry of Railways's chief engineer, He Hua Wu, told reporters taking the trip that the new rail link is the “pride of China and Chinese people.”