Yunnan Probes Subway Accident Amid China’s Drive to Build

China’s Yunnan province is investigating a subway accident that killed a driver and injured the co-driver in a test run for a line set to open before the Lunar New Year holiday.

A metro car derailed on the new line in China’s southern city of Kunming, Yunnan on Jan. 8, and the reason for the accident remains unclear, according to a statement posted on the website of subway operator Kunming Rail Transit Co. No passengers were on the train, the schedule to open the line Feb. 6 won’t be affected and tests of the new line were halted, China Daily reported today, citing Xiang Haoxu, deputy head of the state-owned operator.

China is accelerating approvals for construction of subway projects to boost economic growth. The accident is a “wake-up call” for the government to focus on safety and regulation, said Zhao Jian, a professor of economics at Beijing Jiaotong University, which specializes in railways.

“There’s a great leap forward in subway investment and construction nowadays,” Zhao said by phone today. “It is time to think whether every city needs a subway and is capable of building it.”

The National Development and Reform Commission, the nation’s top economic planner, announced approvals for metro projects in 18 cities in September. It also approved a 63.7 billion-yuan ($10.2 billion) subway construction plan in Changsha city, Hunan province.

Kunming’s new line started a test run on Nov. 5 and was expected to start moving passengers on Feb. 6, according to the subway operator’s website. China’s Lunar New Year falls on Feb. 10 this year. Metro cars are made by CSR Corp., the nation’s biggest trainmaker, according to Kunming Rail’s website. Calls to Kunming Rail and the city government went unanswered today.

Beijing opened four subway lines on Dec. 30, bringing the number of lines in the Chinese capital to 16 with a total length of 442 kilometers (275 miles).

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