BEIJING, April 14 (UPI) -- China's new railway minister says the country's much-acclaimed high-speed trains will run a little slower to help reduce costs for passengers.
Sheng Guangzu, successor to Liu Zhijun, who was ousted by China's anti-corruption watchdog, told the Communist Party's People's Daily the high-speed trains would run at 300 kilometers per hour (186 mph) beginning July 1, instead of 350 kmph (217 mph) as planned.
The minister said only the four east-west and four north-south artery lines of the high-speed rail network would run trains at 186 mph, while inter-city lines would operate at speeds between 200 kmph (124 mph) and 250 kmph (155 mph). In other changes, most trains in central and western China would run slower than 124 mph.
Sheng said passengers had complained about high fares and said they were being forced to ride high-speed trains, as the ministry had canceled slower trains. As part of the changes, rail lines designed for 186 mph trains would also permit slower bullet trains.
Sheng did not say whether the changes would also affect the much publicized Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway line set to open in June, to run trains at 380 kmph (236 mph) to compete with airlines.
Transport Professor Zhao Jian at Beijing Jiaotong University told China Daily the trains should have been running at slower speeds from the start, as the high-speed rail network can operate more safely and economically at 186 mph or less.