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Tests put the brakes on Metro train speed

REGULAR riders of Shanghai's Metro Line 8 should start bringing along a newspaper - or maybe even a book - to pass the time.

The recent spate of delays may continue as tests are carried out to fine-tune the line to full efficiency, the Metro operator said yesterday. Even worse, similar delays can be expected across other parts of the city's subway as new services come on track prior to the 2010 World Expo and operators try to make the whole system run smoothly.

Line 8 is becoming increasingly important to the city's transportation mix as 300,000 commuters are now using it daily.

Since it opened at the end of last year, the 23-kilometer Metro link has become a key channel for residents of Yangpu and Hongkou districts in the city's northeast to reach the downtown. It also runs across the Huangpu River to Yaohua Road also the riverside in Pudong.

On Friday, Line 8 service was suspended for 30 minutes because of a train breakdown. But the biggest problem it presents for regular users is a history of frequent delays.

Operators are still testing the line's automatic signaling system, which regulates train speed and the distance between trains, as they try to achieve maximum efficiency. Yesterday around 8am, the testing caused all southbound trains on Line 8 to slow down, affecting thousands of rush-hour commuters.

A commuter surnamed Qian complained that his usual 10-minute trip took nearly 30 minutes as the train moved in fits and starts. Others reported their trains stopped four to five times between stops.

"The delays occurred because the trains were cut off from the automatic signaling and drivers had to run the trains manually," Yin said.

"We will try our best to avoid future problems on Line 8, but the signal testing is a must and will last longer," said Yin Wei, a media coordinator for the Shanghai Metro Operation Management Center.

Adding further to the complexity, additional Metro lines are going into operation later this year, necessitating even more testing.

"The Metro network becomes more vulnerable to interruptions as it becomes more complicated and integrated," a Metro official said. "It will take time for the whole network to stabilize following the expansion."


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