More than 33,000 high-speed rail passengers were affected by delays caused by a malfunction at the system’s transformer substation in Yunlin County’s Tuku Township (土庫) yesterday.
Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC) officials at the Chiayi Station said the electrical malfunction occurred at 11:21am and disrupted the power supply to the section between Yunlin and Changhua station, which is still under construction.
Three trains were operating near the Tuku substation at the time of the power failure — southbound trains No. 135 and No. 1635 and northbound train No. 138 — but no casualties were reported as the incident had triggered the trains’ safety system, which automatically stopped them.
The THSRC subsequently suspended operations between Greater Taichung and Chiayi County as it dispatched maintenance crews to fix the problem.
After failed attempts to restore power supply to the southbound track on the Taichung-Chiayi section, the company resumed two-way operations using the northbound track at 11:39am.
Overall, the incident affected the operations of 33 trains, nine of which were southbound and six northbound.
Operations of the section resumed full service at 2pm after power supply was fully restored at 1:39pm, and returned to normal at about 4pm.
The THSRC was still investigating the cause of the malfunction.
In an effort to minimize the impact of the incident on passengers, THSRC personnel at Chiayi and Zuoying stations provided water and bread to travelers lining up at the stations for ticket refunds or looking for an alternative means of transportation.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), Greater Tainan Councilor Lin Mei-yan (林美燕) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Wang Cheng-teng (王政騰) were three of the passengers affected by the incident.
“I was originally scheduled to attend a public event in Tainan at 2pm, but because of the delays, I had to cancel the activity at the last minute and make telephone calls to my constituents to apologize,” Lin said.
However, the THSRC has neither issued an apology nor rolled out any compensation measures over the incident, Lin said.
A passenger surnamed Wan (萬) said she had no knowledge of the incident until after she had boarded a northbound train departing Tainan station at 12:49pm, when she heard an announcement saying that the train’s departure might be delayed.
“I was not told how long the delay might be … so I ended up waiting on the train for about an hour,” Wan said.
The delays also met with criticism from the public and lawmakers across party lines, with many criticizing the THSRC for raising its fares by an average of 9.69 percent last month despite providing what they described as unsatisfactory service.
KMT Legislator Lin Kuo-cheng (林國正) said yesterday’s electrical malfunction, coupled with two incidents in April, proved that the THSRC is incapable of handling problems.
On April 12, passengers were evacuated after explosives were found on a high-speed train. Thirteen days later, the THSRC suspended its services for four hours due to a signaling system abnormality.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said it was evident that the price hikes did not prompt the company to provide better service to passengers, but rather fueled its mentality of “I am the boss.”