China's railway regulator has collected tens of billions yuan in insurance premiums while insurance compensation has remained unchanged for decades, local press reported Thursday after a fatal high-speed train collision raised public concern over compensation.
The Ministry of Railways (MOR) collected a total of 16.9 billion yuan (2.62 billion U.S.dollars) of accident insurance premiums from 1999 to 2010, according to a report by the 21st Century Business Herald, a Beijing-based Chinese language newspaper.
The ministry has never revealed the exact amount of its income from insurance premiums, and the calculation of the total was based on railway regulations that require 2 percent of the ticket price to be levied as an accident insurance fee, said the newspaper.
But despite the fact that railway ticket prices have increased significantly in past decades, the maximum insurance compensation for railway accidents remains at 20,000 yuan -- the same amount as in 1992, according to railway regulations.
At least 39 people died and 192 others were injured in Saturday's high-speed train crash near the city of Wenzhou in east Zhejiang Province.
The MOR has promised to pay the families of the deceased 500,000 yuan each in compensation, which has aroused discontent among the public as being widely viewed as inadequate.
Moreover, insurance premiums have been collected as part of the MOR's transportation income instead of being managed by insurance companies, it said.
Therefore, this income has been operated exclusively by the ministry without third-party supervision, such as the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, it said. The ministry has been acting as both the regulator and operator of China's railway system since its establishment.
The MOR announced a profit of 15 million yuan in 2010, while the annual income from premiums stood at 2.7 billion yuan, according to the ministry's annual report last year.