Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday said the city government was looking for alternative sites to relocate the damaged support pillar of the Maokong Gondola system, but nothing would be finalized until a complete evaluation report is released next week.
The safety of the Muzha (木柵) area system, the operation of which was suspended indefinitely after typhoon-related flooding eroded the ground around the pillar, known as Tower No. 16, has become a thorny issue for the city government.
An initial evaluation conducted by four civil engineering associations suggested the damaged pillar be relocated for the safety of the system and local residents.
Hau dismissed criticism from Taipei City councilors that the city government had ignored safety concerns by refusing to relocate Tower No. 16.
He said he had asked Taipei City Secretariat Director Yang Hsi-an (楊錫安) and Taipei City Secretariat Deputy Director Tan Kuo-kuang (譚國光) to search for possible replacement sites.
In the meantime, the city will proceed with repair work on the slope around the pillar’s base and tear down the steel cable and the pillar for safety reasons, he said.
The pillar’s foundation will not be removed until a decision is made on whether the pillar should be rebuilt or relocated, he said.
A landslide in late September left a 1.8m high hollow on the slope under the pillar.
Hau said on Sunday that it could be six months before the system resumes service. However, a member of one of the engineering groups, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that removing the damaged pillar would take at least a year. More than one pillar might have to be moved and the route changed before service could be resumed, the source said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City councilors Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) and Wu Su-yao (吳思瑤) attacked the city government yesterday for its “ignoring public safety” and demanded the Control Yuan investigate what responsibility Hau, his predecessor President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and 14 other city government officials bore for the construction and operation of the system.
“The Maokong Gondola system was a major municipal construction project under Ma’s administration. The system has become a threat to public safety and Ma should not dodge political responsibility over the issue,” Hsu said at the Control Yuan.
Hau said yesterday that the city’s Ethics Department was already looking into the administrative responsibilities of city officials. He also defended Ma, saying the president had discussed the gondola system with him in a telephone call.
“President Ma said we should respect the experts’ opinions and make the safety of local residents the priority,” he said. “The selection of the pillar sites and construction was done by experts. A mayor would not make such decisions, and I don’t think [Ma] should be responsible for the selection of the sites.”
Department of Transportation Commissioner Luo Shiaw-shyan (羅孝賢) said his department would increase the number of buses going to the Maokong area.
When DPP Taipei City councilors asked on Monday for the pillar to be moved immediately, Wu Ching-tang (吳錦堂), a Public Works Department division chief, said: “We will wait until an earthquake occurs”
Coincidentally, a quake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale jolted Taiwan at 11:16am yesterday, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, the Seismology Center said. The tremor struck at about 31km off Taitung County at a depth of 30km, it said.