Tue, Sep 13, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Southern Link rail line damaged again

UNDER ATTACK No one was injured after fasteners were stolen from a section of the Southern Link Line, but it marked the third time that the line has been tampered with

BY RICH CHANG  /  STAFF REPORTER

A close-up image shows the type of metal anchors that hold the rails in place that were stolen from a section of the Southern Link Line yesterday.

PHOTO: KUO FANG-CHI, TAIPEI TIMES

Taiwan Railway's Southern Link Line between Taitung and Kaohsiung was damaged for the third time in four months yesterday, and police say they are examining evidence left at the scene of each incident, including water bottles, plastic cups and a piece of chewed betel nut.

Police said they discovered the damage yesterday at 7am during a patrol. Railway staff swiftly fixed the problem, so it caused only minor delays of trains using the route.

"More than 70 sets of spring-type anchors that connect the railway to the land were damaged and stolen yesterday morning, and police have collected some evidence," a press statement issued by the Pingtung County Police Department said yesterday.

More police patrols

"The damage could have caused a serious train accident, and police are increasing patrols along the railway," the statement said.

The perpetrators left plastic cups and bottled water at the scene, which police said would help them identify the criminals.

In the first incident on June 21, a ziqiang (自強號) class train went off the rails as it went through Fangliao (枋寮) Township, Pingtung County, injuring 14 passengers, the statement said.

Police said the accident was caused by a rail that had been loosened after more than 30 sets of metal spring anchors were stolen.

Yesterday's incident was very similar to the June 21 incident, the statement said, and police speculate that the criminals might have stolen the springs to sell them.

On Aug. 21, just 200m from the June incident, it was discovered that signal wires on the rail line had been cut.

Police said the severing of the wires was extremely dangerous and could have caused a collision between trains.

Police said that on Sunday they had finished a DNA test on a piece of chewed betel nut collected from the site of the incident.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications last month offered an NT$500,000 (US$15,800) reward for anyone who was able to identify the criminals, but police said that few people have come forward with information.

Insider?

Police said it was not clear whether the three incidents had been committed by the same person or group, but that the perpetrators seemed to know the railway very well.

Originally, police suspected that a disgruntled staff member of Taiwan Railway might be behind the crimes, but have since ruled out that possibility.

Taiwan Railway has been helping police investigate whether any of its staff were involved in the incidents, according to the statement.

Police said the string of incidents has raised concerns, and that passenger numbers have declined recently.

The Southern Link Line connects Taitung to Kaohsiung, and is seen as a tourist route.

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