Sat, Jul 11, 2009 - Page 1 News List

MRT malfunction strands hundreds

NOT SAFE MRT staff were ill-prepared to deal with the new Neihu Line’s most serious glitch to date, with many left to force their way out of trains without assistance

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER, WITH STAFF WRITER

Passengers walk between the tracks of the MRT Neihu Line toward Gangqian Station in Neihu, Taipei City, after their train malfunctioned. The incident marked the first serious system malfunction since the Neihu Line started operations last Saturday.

PHOTO: FANG PIN-CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

The Taipei City MRT’s Neihu and Muzha lines were suspended yesterday afternoon after a sudden power outage, forcing about 700 passengers to walk down the elevated rail lines to return to station platforms after trains stopped between stations.

The lines are scheduled to resume operating at 6am today. The suspension of services yesterday was the first serious system failure on the Neihu Line since it began operations last Saturday.

A total of 21 trains running on the two lines came to a halt at 3:27pm after the control center detected a warning signal indicating a malfunction in the power supply, Taipei Rapid Transit Corp (TRTC) general manager Tsay Huei-sheng (蔡輝昇) said.

The malfunction caused power to be cut off and the whole Brown Line was shut down, Tsay said. The company began evacuating passengers according to emergency procedures at 3:44pm after it failed to restore power, he said.

TRTC said only three trains stopped between stations — one between Neihu District’s Gangqian and Wende stations; one between Zhongshan District’s Dazhi and Jiannan stations; and one between Zhongshan District’s Zhongshan Junion High School and Songshan Airport stations.

However, Taipei Times reporters saw another train stopped between Gangqian and Wende stations, and trains stopped in both directions north of Zhongshan Junior High School Station. The TRTC declined to comment on the discrepancy.

All passengers, including those on the trains that stopped between stations, were evacuated by 4:20pm, and the company provided free shuttle buses along the lines to take them to their destinations, Tsay said, adding that the TRTC had sent staff to evacuate passengers as soon as possible.

Some passengers from the stranded trains, however, slammed the TRTC for failing to respond to the incident promptly, leaving some waiting inside the cars for more than half an hour without air conditioning or any explanation.

“Nobody told us what happened and we were stuck inside the cars without air conditioning. Their emergency response ability is a joke,” a female passenger complained after walking back to Zhongshan Junior High School Station.

STRANDED

A Taipei Times editor, who was in the stranded train near Gangqian Station, said that passengers arriving at the station prior to the power shutdown were not able to board or alight because the doors did not open. The train then moved off and stopped a few seconds later well beyond the station. After a few moments, it started again, but then lurched to a halt, pitching passengers forward.

An announcement came over the loudspeaker that there had been an incident and that passengers should wait. Announcements, repeated every few minutes, were in Mandarin only. Several announcements were made over the next 20 minutes requesting that passengers wait “patiently.” At 25 minutes, the power and air conditioning suddenly went off. There was no announcement as to how long passengers would be expected to wait. After 30 minutes, and after receiving no instructions from MRT staff, three male passengers pried open the doors and stepped outside.

A female MRT employee ran up to the carriage from Gangqian Station. The men asked if the passengers should get off and walk to the station. She said “yes” in an exasperated tone, as if this were obvious, despite the fact that the last instruction to be issued was “wait patiently” on their own.

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