Taipei City Government is set to reopen the Maokong Gondola — which has been shut down for 16 months because of safety reasons — after an examination report released yesterday concluded the system was safe.
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) told a press conference held after the weekly city affairs meeting that the city would adhere to two principles in reopening the gondola: respect the opinion of professionals and ensure the operation is safe. They would also fully cooperate with professional engineers and follow their advice on improving the system.
“We don't have any timetable,” he said. “But we are optimistic that operations will resume in spring.
As Hau is scheduled to travel abroad on March 28, Luo Shiaw-shyan (羅孝賢), commissioner of the city's Department of Transportation, said the system was likely to resume operations before the mayor's trip abroad.
Taipei City Government spokeswoman Chao Hsin-ping (趙心屏) said Hau would inspect the system tomorrow. Once approved by Hau, the system would start trial runs, Chao said.
The system, which was built during President Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) term as Taipei mayor, has been shut down since October 2008 after the foundation of a support pillar were eroded during a typhoon. Hau's administration has been censured by the Control Yuan over the construction of the system.
The city commissioned the Chinese Union of Professional Civil Engineer Associations about six months ago to conduct a thorough inspection and present recommendations.
Union chairman James Yu (余烈) said the inspection conducted by 29 of the association's civil engineers concluded that the system was “absolutely safe,” unless there's a typhoon or torrential rain.
Their examination also found that the design, construction method and engineering quality all met requirements, he said.
He said, however, that any design was “not 100 percent perfect.”
He classified the 25 pillars into three categories based on five indicators: pillar foundation is less than 10m deep, slope inclination is more than 40º, a slope is more than 20m in length, distance between pillars is less than 3m and rocks comprise less than 50 percent of the foundation.
Category A refers to pillars that contain all these faults and are the weakest, he said.
“It is like a premature baby who manages to live but requires a lot of medical care,” he said.
To ensure the comfort of passengers, Yu recommended the city install solar panels to generate power for air ventilation or an electrical fan.
Yu also asked the city to strengthen its crackdown on bamboo plantations, vegetables or tea on the hillside to protect the soil around the pillars' foundation.
Once the system is reopened, Yu said the city should continue to monitor the devices placed underground, on the surface and above ground. The system should be suspended once indicators exceed safety levels and measures should be taken to fix the problem or shut it down.
Yu said they conducted the inspection free of political intervention and that they had made it clear to the government that they would terminate the contract if it refused to cooperate.
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