Emergency workers are battling to rescue survivors from the mangled wreckage of two Chinese bullet trains involved in a high-speed collision which left 33 dead and nearly 200 injured, reports said.
The first train had been halted by a lightning strike and was rear-ended by the second, state media said, causing two carriages to fall off a viaduct in a disaster likely to raise fresh questions over the safety of China’s rapid rail expansion.
Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao called for ‘all-out efforts’ to rescue injured passengers, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The Hayabusa bullet train debuted Saturday on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line, thrilling rail fans and people living in northern Japan, following the route’s extension in December to Aomori.
The green and silver train is the first new model deployed by East Japan Railway Co. since December 1997. It can speed along at up to 300 kph and, at 15 meters, has the longest nose of any shinkansen.
It links Tokyo with Shin-Aomori Station in three hours and 10 minutes on its fastest run, 10 minutes less than the older Hayate. JR East says it aims to raise the top speed to 320 kph and shave the time to three hours and five minutes in spring 2013.
The first train departed snow-dusted Shin-Aomori Station at 6:10 a.m. following a ceremony jazzed up by local festival music.
Japan is set to launch at the weekend its next-generation high-speed train, featuring sleek green and silver cars with pink stripes and named for the peregrine falcon.
The "Hayabusa," the first upgrade of Japan’s bullet train fleet in 14 years, has sparked such excitement among railway buffs that one ticket for Saturday, when it debuts, sold for thousands of dollars on the internet, media said.
The train clocks in at a top speed of 300 km (180 miles) an hour, making it the fastest train in Japan — and just short of China’s Harmony Express, a cross-continental rapid transit line that hits a high of 350 km an hour.
"It is indeed a bullet train that represents the high level of our company and Japan’s technology," said Tomoyuki Endo, manager of the Shinkansen Group at East Japan Railway Company.
"Not only with its speed but also with its eco-friendly, speedy, reliable and comfortable mechanical performance as well as its fine passenger service."
The experimental MLX01 maglev is the world’s fastest train. But it is confined to a 12-mile track. And like the train itself, its technology has been trapped in Japan.
Now, though, Japan wants to begin exporting its expertise in high-speed rail.
On Tuesday, the Central Japan Railway Company took the visiting United States transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, on a test run — a 312-mile-an-hour tryout for the lucrative economic stimulus contracts that the United States plans to award to update and expand its rail network.
“Very fast,” Mr. LaHood said after stepping off the maglev at a track nestled here in mountains west of Tokyo. “We’re right at the start of an opportunity for America to be connected with high-speed, intercity rail,” he said.
A win for Japanese technology abroad and for a greener way of travel and mass transit for Vietnam.
According to Bloomberg News:
Vietnam’s Cabinet has approved plans for a $55.9 billion high-speed rail project that would use Japan’s bullet-train technology, Nikkei English News reported, without saying how it obtained the information.
The rail line would connect the northern and southern parts of Vietnam. Construction is to start in 2012 and trains would run on part of the line in 2020, Nikkei said.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., Mitsubishi Corp., Sumitomo Corp., and other Japanese companies have been urging Vietnam to adopt their technology, the report said.