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Manufacturer recalls bullet trains

A Chinese bullet train manufacturer has announced a recall today of 54 trains in the latest embarrassment for a problem-plagued prestige project following a July crash that killed 40 people.

The recall adds to growing signs official attitudes toward the bullet train are shifting and Beijing might scale back its rapid expansion of the high speed rail network.

A moratorium on new rail projects was imposed this week and the government announced a reduction in train speeds.

The recall applies to model CRH380BL trains used on the new Beijing-Shanghai line, which has suffered repeated delays blamed on equipment failures, state-owned China North Locomotive and Rolling Stock Ltd said in a statement through the Shanghai Stock Exchange. It gave no indication the recall was linked to the fatal July 23 collision on a separate line in southern China.

The company said it would carry out "comprehensive inspection and rectification" on the trains but gave no other details.

Beijing launched an overhaul of the multibillion-dollar high-speed network after the July crash prompted an avalanche of public complaints about the human cost of rapid, government-driven development.

CNR announced a temporary halt to production of CRH380BL trains this week. A state news agency cited a company manager as saying faulty sensors were believed to be to blame for the stoppages and experts were being sent to examine rail lines.

The bullet train was meant to showcase China's technological advancement and form the basis for possible exports.

Chinese bullet train makers have sold rail cars to Malaysia and are working on projects in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. But even before the July crash, the bullet train was a target of critics who said it was dangerously fast and too expensive for a society where the poor majority need more low-cost transportation, not record-setting speeds.

China has the world's biggest train network, with 56,000 miles of passenger rail. But trains are overloaded with passengers and cargo, and critics say the money would be better spent expanding slower routes.

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