China Backtracks on High-Speed Trains

A year ago China’s new high-speed rail network was being hailed as a major accomplishment and a model for the U.S. After Li Zhuhui, the former Minister of Railways, was arrested on corruption charges, the program has suffered a series of defeats. The government has now announced it will scale back and make the trains slower and cheaper than originally planned. And over the weekend, protesters outside the Railway Ministry offices in Beijing alleged corruption in the Ministry’s hiring practices. From the New York Times:

The protest erupted outside the ministry’s fortress-like entrance across from the Defense Ministry here. More than 100 demobilized soldiers and their families chanted slogans accusing the ministry of reneging on promises to hire them. The group traveled 750 miles from the northeastern city of Harbin and claimed that one protester had been killed there.

“We love China!” the protesters shouted. “Give us our jobs!” The protesters, many of them wearing T-shirts saying “I am from a military family,” said they been tested for the jobs but that the results were rigged. People with good connections to the rail ministry were awarded the jobs, they said.

The ministry did not return calls seeking comment.

The protest — a rarity in tightly controlled central Beijing — lost steam after one middle-aged female protester appeared to have had a heart attack. Police officers dispersed the crowd an hour after the demonstration began.

The ministry confirmed that the new high-speed line — as well as several others across the country — would be slower and cheaper than planned. Originally meant to operate at top speeds of about 215 miles per hour, the new line will have trains running at 186 miles and 155 miles per hour. In addition, officials said, they had scrapped plans for luxury compartments and would offer cheaper classes of service.

Read more about high-speed rail in China via CDT.

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