Wenzhou crash: China freezes new rail projects

The BBC's Martin Patience says there was "huge public anger" after a recent crash that killed 40 people

Chinese officials have ordered a temporary halt on new high-speed rail projects, as the fallout continues from last month's fatal crash near Wenzhou.

The State Council said the safety of new projects would be re-evaluated before approval could be given.

Safety checks would also be carried out on existing lines, and speed limits would be put in place.

The government's handling of the Wenzhou crash, which killed 40 people, caused widespread anger.

An official diktat ordering journalists in state-run media groups not to investigate the causes of the crash was leaked on the internet, leading to allegations of a cover-up.

Workers clear wreckage of mangled carriages after a Chinese high-speed train derailed, July 24, 2011 Four carriages were shunted off a viaduct after an apparent signal failure

And a government order was leaked advising local lawyers that they needed authorisation to take on compensation cases of victims.

The high-speed rail network is one of the country's flagship projects.

But critics have accused the government of ignoring safety warnings in its rush to complete the construction.

The State Council announced its review of safety after a meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday.

"We will suspend for the time being the examination and approval of new railway construction projects," the council said in a statement.

But the council added: "China will unswervingly continue its development of high-speed railways."

On Thursday the country's biggest rail construction firm, China Railway Group, announced it had dropped a plan to raise about 6.2bn yuan ($970m; £600m) through a share placement.

"Given changes in the country's macro policy, there have been uncertainties in regulatory approvals," the firm said in a statement.

The Railways Ministry is still investigating the cause of the crash, but regional rail officials have said a signalling failure was responsible.

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