Sat, Oct 07, 2017 - Page 8 News List

A solution to the Losheng impasse

By John Liu 劉可強

The Losheng (Happy Life) Sanatorium for people with Hansen’s disease is a world-class cultural heritage site. It commemorates the nation’s public health history and is a well-preserved urban sanctuary for a neighborhood that is in desperate need of a public space.

In 2002, the construction of a maintenance depot at Huilong Station (迴龍站) for the Xinzhuang Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Line began, which led to the demolition of a vital entrance to Losheng that was used by people in wheelchairs who have been living in the sanatorium for decades. Despite more than a decade-long social mobilization to reroute the MRT line and restore the heritage site, there is still no agreeable solution to the impasse.

However, recent developments have shed light on the possibility of a win-win solution that would balance the needs of all parties concerned.

For preservation advocates, the bottom line is the humane and just accommodation of the remaining patients who depend on electric scooters for movement in and out of the site and, second, complete conservation of the buildings and the landscape of the site, including the historically significant entrance from the main road, a key requirement of the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (文化資產保存法).

On the other side, the bottom line is maintaining the standard of operation for the MRT line without compromising safety or delaying trains.

A previous proposal to construct a pedestrian bridge over the tracks to connect Losheng to the main road would require the use of an elevator for scooters to negotiate three floors of height difference between the campus and the main road.

This proposal would greatly inhibit the movement of the patients and also fail to meet the requirements of landscape restoration of the entrance to the site. Alternatively, there has been a proposal to build a large platform over the tracks, but it also does not overcome the vertical transition necessary at the main entrance.

In December last year, at a coordination meeting held at the National Development Council where representatives from all concerned departments were present, a possible solution was raised.

By reducing the size of the tracks closest to the main entrance, it is possible to slope a large platform gradually so that it meets the ground, thus allowing electric scooters to move freely without the use of cumbersome elevators, while at the same time restoring the original features fo the entrance.

This proposal was a major breakthrough, which was also affirmed by Taipei Rapid Transit Corp (TRTC) at the meeting.

However, in a meeting to affirm this important consensus, the Department of Rapid Transit Systems (DORTS) would not agree to the compromise. This was not only a setback for the preservation of one of the most notable heritage sites in the nation, but also made a mockery of the public process of democracy, especially in light of the government’s emphasis on human rights and transitional justice.

DORTS has singlehandedly derailed the long and arduous process of coordination among the concerned departments that led to the compromise solution. The parties concerned are the ministries of culture, transportation and communications, and health and welfare. The local departments include the New Taipei City Cultural Affairs Department, DORTS and TRTC.

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