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July 9, 2011

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Metro escalators shut over safety fears

SHANGHAI yesterday stopped using a specific model of escalator made by world-leading manufacturer OTIS in the wake of a fatal accident in Beijing.

The Shanghai Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision said 22 OTIS 513MPE escalators were in operation in Shanghai and will be suspended pending tests.

These are in six Metro stations on Metro line 1 and 7, including Xinzhuang Station and Shanghai South Railway Station on Metro Line 1 and Panguang Road Station, Huamu Road Station, Gucun Park Station and Liuhang Station on Metro Line 7.

Officials reminded people to be careful when using Metro stairs, especially in the morning rush hour.

Yesterday evening, Xinzhuang Station faced its first big test since the suspension of the escalators. Passengers said movement on the stairs was very slow.

Policemen, security guards and volunteers were posted at every stairhead to keep the big crowds moving smoothly.

Local subway operator, the Shanghai Shentong Metro Group, said all escalators of this type are being tested. Any found with quality problems will be removed.

Meanwhile, some Shanghai passengers were yesterday still shaken by the accident in Beijing on Tuesday, in which a 13-year-old boy was killed.

At the People's Square Station on Metro Line 8, Shanghai Daily found that more people were choosing to use the stairs rather than escalators.

"I've decided to always use the stairs," said a passenger named Zhao Jing. "I can't imagine what would happen if an accident occurred here in the morning."

Several escalators have malfunctioned in the city's subway stations in recent years, although without causing any fatalities.

In 2009, four people suffered fractures after falling off an escalator at Jiangsu Road Station on Metro Line 2.

In 2008, 11 people were injured when an escalator suddenly went into reverse at Zhangjiang High-Tech Park Station, also on Line 2.

The bureau is now inspecting all escalators in Metro stations, airports, shopping malls and hypermarkets.

Officials also ordered escalator operators to carry out self-inspection to ensure safety. According to regulations, escalators should be checked every 15 days.

There are 1,725 escalators in the city's Metro stations. Of these, 691 were made by OTIS, said the Shentong group.

While their investigation continues, Beijing quality authorities said the type of the OTIS escalator involved had "flaws in its design and manufacture" which caused the fatal accident, and that OTIS should be held accountable.

Mei Jia, general manager of OITS Shanghai, said the company is now cooperating with authorities' quality test.

"We will inspect all models of our escalators," said Mei.

"If it is confirmed that our escalators are qualified, we'll apply to the government to put them into operation again," Mei said.

On Thursday, an OTIS elevator in a local office building in Xuhui District dropped from the fourth floor, trapping more than 10 people.

No one was hurt.


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