Tue, Feb 25, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Railway workers protest THSRC deal

FEARS Taiwan Railway Administration workers worry that schedule cuts in the wake of the high-speed rail group's rental of station facilities will lead to job losses

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

A Taiwan Railway Administration employee lies on the tracks at Taipei Railway Station during a demonstation yesterday against the closure of two platforms and four tracks for the construction of the new high-speed railway.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Over 2,000 railway workers held a demonstration at Taipei Railway Station yesterday to protest against the Taiwan Railway Administration's closure of two platforms and four tracks in the station for the construction of the nation's north-south high-speed railway.

Taipei Railway Station has four platforms and nine tracks.

Six trains between Taipei and Keelung were cancelled yesterday as a result of the closures.

The TRA will lease the two platforms and four tracks to Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC) in April next year, after which the administration plans to cut another 104 trains.

At the demonstration, the Taiwan Railway Labor Union (TRLU), worried about how the high-speed railway project will affect the operation of the current railway system and accused the administration of betraying its own workers.

Angry protesters walked down onto the tracks to pick up garbage as a gesture of farewell to the tracks and the platforms.

While railway workers from around the nation gathered at the station to voice support for the TRLU, Chang Wen-cheng (張文正), chairman of TRLU, made three appeals to the railway administration.

"First, in order not to affect the rights of travelers, no trains should be cancelled as a result of the high-speed railway project," said Chang.

"Secondly, TRA should not hand over any platforms or tracks at Taipei Railway Station to the private company THSRC.

"Thirdly, TRA has to abide by the legislative resolution about how TRA and THSRC share platforms and tracks," said Chang.

On March 26 last year, the legislature passed a resolution to protect the state-owned railway system from being affected by the private high-speed railway project.

The main point of the resolution was that THSRC cannot use TRA's platforms and tracks without the agreement of Chang's union.

According to Chang, on Feb. 19, union members met with the administration's Director-General Huang Teh-chih (黃德治) to ask him to comply with the resolution and not to lease any platforms or tracks to THSRC.

"However, Huang's attitude was tough and he rejected our request," Chang said.

Chang said the union would launch a national railway workers' strike if the administration refused to listen to appeals. Demonstrators even called on Huang to resign.

Railway workers also fear job losses because the government is planning to corporatize the deficit-burdened TRA next year, and plans to privatize it in June 2007.

Huang turned up at the end of the demonstration and told protesters he would comply with the unions three demands. He also offered his resignation.

"Our railway system is facing great difficulties. If my resignation can solve all the problems, I will resign now," Huang said.

Hsu Ta-wen (徐達文), the administration's deputy director-general said the completion of the high-speed railway will severely affect TRA's long-haul services. As a result, the administration has been planning to transform the current railway system into a system of local railway networks that operate mainly short-haul trips.

Hsu also promised no job cuts during TRA's privatization.

Also to appease the protesting railway workers, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) instructed a senior official of the Council of Labor Affairs to express to Chang the government's willingness to meet the union's demands..

The union and the railway administration both agreed yesterday to return to the negotiation table to discuss whether the platforms and tracks should be reopened.

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