Fri, May 11, 2001 - Page 17 News List

Vibration debate starts to heat up

HOT AIR The decibel level of officials discussing the impact of the high-speed rail on a Tainan industrial park is now exceeding the noise level of the train itself

By Richard Dobson  /  STAFF REPORTER

The vitriol over railway vibrations affecting high-tech manufacturers intensified yesterday with the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (台灣高鐵) and Steve Hsieh (薛香川), vice chairman of the National Science Council (國科會), accusing each other of not understanding the problem.

Hsieh started early yesterday launching a barrage on the China Broadcasting Corp's (中廣) morning show during which he said Taiwan High Speed Rail "had confused cause and effect."

"Work on the Tainan Science-based Industrial Park (台南科學園區) started in 1996, the high speed rail project wasn't signed until 1998," Hsieh said.

This was a direct response to criticism by Nita Ing (殷琪), chairwoman of Taiwan High Speed Rail on Monday when she said the government's first mistake was made in 1995, when it selected the location of the park on top of the railway whose route had been set in 1992.

Hsieh also slammed Taiwan High Speed Rail's refusal to budge on its insistence that vibration from the railway -- which passes close to the park -- cannot be lowered to 48 decibels at 200m, as demanded by the council.

In fact, Hsieh said the council's willingness to accept 48 decibels was a climb down from an earlier level of 36 decibels -- which was the limit set by government planners for the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park (新竹科學園區).

"The company promised it would reduce the decibel level, now it says it can't and even ask why the park was located next to the railway line," Hsieh said, who on Tuesday offered his resignation over the matter.

Eventually all sides agreed in July of 1999 to set 68 decibels as a temporary limit -- which Hsieh stressed was only temporary and could not be called the final limit -- and work together over the next eight months to find a "reasonable and feasible" way to cut the vibration.

Hsieh claimed yesterday that within that period Taiwan High Speed Rail not only rejected the Council's plan to reduce the distance between railway supports from 30m to six, but also rebutted a solution provided by their own engineers that would have slashed 7 decibels from the vibrations.

"Expert evaluation has shown this is the only one way to solve the Tainan problem," Hsieh said. "This plan is fair, workable and has been deemed viable by the cabinet task force on the matter," he said.

Both Taiwan High Speed Rail and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications have rejected the plan as too costly and would result in lengthy delays.

Edward Lin (林天送), senior vice president of Taiwan High Speed Rail, said Hsieh's 36-decibel figure lacked common sense, adding that all sides had agreed in 1999 that the background vibrations at the Tainan park measured 48 decibels.

"This estimate was drawn from data taken when the Tainan park was just a sugar cane field ... now that the park is open, and with the train passing through it, how can it be possible that the background vibrations should be lower than the original estimates? Is this a question of science or common sense?" he said.

Comparisons between the Hsinchu and Tainan parks over the vibration issue were discounted by Liao Ching-lung (廖慶隆), head of the government's Bureau of High Speed Rail (高鐵局), and engineers from Taiwan High Speed Rail.

Liao said that although the railway will also pass within several hundred meters of the Hsinchu park, "the surrounding soil is much more compacted than that around the Tainan park, effectively dampening the vibrations."

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