Sun, Mar 09, 2003 - Page 1 News List

High-speed rail safety in question

QUALITY CONTROL A KMT lawmaker said that the use of inferior materials has led to defects in pillars supporting the track and demanded a new inspection committee

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

KMT Legislator Alex Tsai yesterday criticizes Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp for what he said was the poor quality of its construction work during a press conference, demanding that the government establish a special committee to monitor the project.

PHOTO: LIU HSIN-TEH, TAIPEI TIMES

Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. (THSRC) is using inferior materials in the construction of the north-south high-speed railway and this has caused serious cracks in the pillars that support the railway's elevated track, a KMT lawmaker said yesterday.

In a press conference, Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) presented a number of photos showing breaks in the railway's supporting pillars. The photos, taken at the construction site of the railway's Tainan section, revealed many pillar breaks sealed over with cement.

"We discovered many cracks sealed with cement and exposed iron rods at the construction sites of the railway's Kaohsiung and Tainan sections," Tsai said.

Tsai said the cracks posed a serious threat to the railway's safety and asked the Executive Yuan to immediately establish a committee of engineers to inspect theconstruction of the railway.

Tsai also accused the Bureau of Taiwan High Speed Rail of negligence in its responsibility to supervise the railway's construction.

"The bureau allowed THSRC to use inferior materials and neglected the railway's safety," Tsai said.

The construction of the 345km-long railway is a build-operate-transfer project. The railway is divided into 12 sections. Individual contractors build each section.

The contractors included domestic agencies and foreign firms from Japan, South Korea, Germany, Holland and Thailand.

According to Tsai, the pillar cracks appeared in three sections in the Tainan and Kaohsiung areas, labelled C280, C291 and C295.

The Korean firms Samsung Electronics Co., Doosan Heavy Industry and the International Engineering & Construction Group are the contractors of the C280 section linking Chiayi and Tainan.

Evergreen Construction Corp and Shimizu Corp of Japan are the contractors for the C291 section in Tainan.

The C295 section linking Tainan and Kaohsiung is a joint venture between Evergreen Construction Corp, the Italian Thai Development Public Co. of Thailand and Pacific Wire and Cable Group.

In response to Tsai's allegations, Hsu Chun-yat (許俊逸), the bureau's chief engineer, said the bureau carries out two inspections of the railway's construction every year.

Hsu said the bureau had found serious breaks on eight pillars. "The damaged pillars have been demolished," said Hsu.

THSRC also issued a statement to respond to Tsai's allegations.

"THSRC restates that safety is the corporation's priority in building the railway. The corporation is fully responsible for the railway's safety," the statement said.

"Even though the corporation will be transferring the operation to the government in 35 years, the corporation will still be responsible for the quality of railway's construction," the statement said.

"The corporation has no reason to allow its contractors to use inferior materials," the statement said.

According to the statement, in June last year, THSRC found eight flawed pillars in the C291 section in Tainan during its inspection and asked the contractors to deal with the cracks.

The contractors asked Parsons Brinckerhoff, a US engineering company, to evaluate the conditions of the pillars. The company advised the contractors to seal the cracks.

"However, disagreeing with the company's advice, THSRC demanded the contractors demolish the pillars and build new ones. The flawed pillars were demolished between December last year and February this year," the statement said.

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