Wed, Nov 29, 2006 - Page 1 News List

High speed rail given conditional pass

NOT QUITE The final review of the nation's new bullet train was conducted last night, but the committee outlined six further conditions that still need to be met

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The final review of the high speed rail concluded last night, with members of the inspection committee outlining six conditions that need to be met before the system can become fully operational.

The three main conditions are, first, that the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC) present records of two weeks of test runs conducted at intervals of no greater than 10 minutes apart.

Second, the high speed rail will need to operate accident-free for one month following a minor accident that occurred last Friday.

Third, the company is required to present evidence that the signaling system is fully integrated with other sub-systems. During test runs, the company will also need to demonstrate the ability to, among other things, operate a timetable in which trains run every four minutes.

Vice Minister of Transportation and Communications Ho Nuan-hsuen (何煖軒) said last night that the ministry would abide by the committee's recommendations.

Inspectors also listed 31 operational features that needed to be amended.

The inauguration ceremony is likely to be delayed by the committee's findings, but officials said this issue would be addressed at another time.

In the final review meeting, representatives from the THSRC provided details on how they addressed 28 major defects raised in the Independent Validation and Verification Report.

Company representatives then left the meeting while committee members deliberated on whether the system should be given the go-ahead. Divided into three groups, the members reviewed one of three major aspects of the bullet train system: construction, trial operations and the core system.

Public relations officials with the THSRC said yesterday that they could not comment on the committee's decision before they received the official report from the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, but that they would respect the committee's conclusions and do their best to rectify any defects.

Meanwhile, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) reassured an opposition lawmaker yesterday that he would not attend next Thursday's launch ceremony for the high speed rail unless the rail system had passed all safety inspections.

Asked by KMT Legislator Tsao Shou-min (曹壽民) at a Legislative Yuan question-and-answer session whether he would attend the ceremony if the system failed safety inspections, Su said no.

Su said that the high speed rail should not be allowed to begin commercial operations without an independent authority certifying in a formal report that the system was safe.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Tsai Duei (蔡堆) also said he would not attend if the system did not meet safety standards.

The 345km high speed rail system linking Taipei and Kaohsiung is expected to reduce travel time between the nation's two largest cities from four hours to 90 minutes.

However, two derailments in less than a month -- apparently caused by human error -- have created doubts over the safety of the railway.

In related news, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) yesterday attacked the THSRC for proposing to charge taxi drivers serving high speed rail stations in Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan and Kaohsiung.

"The proposal violates the Highway Act (公路法) and other laws and regulations, as no one is entitled to charge taxi drivers fees and royalties," Wu said.

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