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Metro shuts down at rush hour

THOUSANDS of rush-hour commuters were delayed in Shanghai yesterday morning when a Metro train broke down and impatient passengers tried to escape by walking along the tracks. The 30-minute service suspension was the fourth Metro breakdown in two weeks.

Packed with commuters heading to their jobs, the Line 2 train came to an unexpected halt inside a tunnel at 8:50am as it was about to pull into the People's Square Station, heading for Pudong. The train stopped after a mechanical problem was detected in its braking system, the Metro Operation Management Center said. Metro trains, which are automatically controlled, will stop by themselves if defects are detected by the system.

As the train sat on the tracks, five or six passengers apparently became impatient and pulled the emergency brake, which allowed them to open the doors and leave the carriage.

"This also caused the emergency to last longer as we had to locate all the passengers and ask them to return before the train could resume operation," a Metro official said. Another train was sent to push the troubled train to a station so passengers could disembark.

"A huge crowd of people dashed to the escalator once the door opened, which seemed very dangerous," said Bao Luying, who witnessed one of the first trains pulling into the Songhong Road station at around 9:20am. "I guess many of them were late for work."

Metro operators shut down operation of Line 2 and closed entrances to the Zhongshan Park, People's Square and Century Avenue stations. Stranded commuters inside the stations were asked to leave and take ground transport.

The growing integration of the rapidly expanding Metro system is both attracting an increasing passenger flow and raising the potential for malfunctions, officials acknowledged. A breakdown can affect the entire network and disrupt service for a large number of passengers.

Daily Metro ridership has increased from 2 million to 3.08 million people since five new Metro lines opened in 2007.

No action will be taken on the fleeing passengers, but Metro police warned earlier that anyone pulled the emergency brake without good reason could face punishment, including detention.


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