The first carriage of the train ran off the tracks in the city of Kunming in Yunnan province at 9:09 am (0109 GMT), the China News Service said. There were no passengers on board.
One driver was struck by falling heating equipment in the driver’s cabin and died, while another was slightly injured and taken to hospital, the report said, citing the subway’s operator, state-owned Kunming Rail Transit Co.
The city government was investigating the cause of the accident, it added.
Chinese authorities have long been accused of compromising safety in their rush to develop the country’s vast transport network.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the rail was slated to be in full service by the Lunar Holiday next month:
China in recent years has built the world’s longest high-speed railway systems, and now has some of the longest subways. Late last month, Beijing alone put four additional lines into service, pushing the total to 16 that snake 442 kilometers through the capital.
Proponents of the mass transit systems say the world’s most populous nation is already too crowded with cars as its urban populations expand, and they say the rail engineering and construction jobs provide growth for the economy. China’s locomotive makers are starting to export rail systems to countries like Turkey, with an ambition to supply developed markets including the U.S.
Safety concerns are rising as the railway program expands, as experts point out the signaling and management systems involved in rail are complex and take years to perfect. China’s bullet-train system suffered a range of mishaps in 2011, including the collision of two trains that sent parts of one off a tall bridge and killed 40 people. Weeks later, a collision underground on Shanghai’s newest subway injured hundreds.
Kunming’s $1 billion-plus subway program is relatively modest among those planned in China. It is designed to address urban sprawl of a city with a population over six million. Tuesday’s accident happened around the midpoint of Line 1, which is designed to reach Kunming’s university district and southern reaches and carry 100,000 people per day when it is completed.
This latest accident has highlighted anxieties over the safety of China’s railways due to previous accidents, such as the 2011 Wenzhou high-speed train crash and crash in Jiamusi station. Xinhua reports this accident was the third accident in two weeks on China’s metro lines:
On Dec 31, five workers were killed and 18 others injured after a platform collapsed in a parking lot being built to support a metro line in Shanghai.
On Jan 2, three workers were injured after a tunnel of a metro line under construction in the southern Chinese city of Nanning collapsed.
Read more about train accidents in China, via CDT.