Sat, Nov 03, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Ministry to probe procurement of trains

DEADLY ERROR?Nippon Sharyo found a design flaw in the Puyuma Express trains it sold to Taiwan that stops the alert system from being able to contact the control station

By Su Fun-her and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer and CNA

Democratic Progressive Party legislators Hsiao Bi-khim, left, and Liu Chao-hao listen during a joint news conference in Taipei yesterday held to probe how the automatic train protection system purchased by the Taiwan Railway Agency was able to pass an inspection in 2013.

Photo: Fang Bin-chao, Taipei Times

Minister of Transportation and Communications Wu Hong-mo (吳宏謀) yesterday said that the ministry would investigate the Taiwan Railways Administration’s (TRA) procurement and evaluation process and whether it could seek compensation from the Japanese manufacturer of a train that derailed last month.

The remarks came after the TRA on Thursday said it had asked the company, Nippon Sharyo, to explain a design flaw in all 19 Puyuma trains it sold to Taiwan.

Puyuma Express No. 6432 derailed on Oct. 21, killing 18 people and injuring 215.

If the company finds that the flaw can be fixed immediately, the ministry will ask for improvements and related system upgrades at once, Wu added.

TRA said it has sent a letter to Nippon Sharyo, a subsidiary of Central Japan Railway Co, and asked it to “make necessary arrangements.”

Japanese media outlets on Thursday said that Nippon Sharyo had discovered a design flaw in the trains that prevents the alert system from contacting the control station. As a result, train dispatchers are not aware when the automatic train protection (ATP) system, which prevents trains from speeding, is turned off, unless the driver informs them.

Nippon Sharyo did not double-check the feature before selling the trains to Taiwan and, because that model of train does not operate in Japan, was unaware of the flaw, the reports said.

The company said that if the TRA asked it to, it would conduct maintenance on the Puyuma trains and fix the problem, the reports said.

Nippon Sharyo was quoted in the reports as saying that this situation reflects problems with its internal quality control system, but added that it does not appear that the lack of connection between the train and control room was the direct cause of the derailment, as the driver did inform dispatchers that he had turned off the ATP system.

Speeding was to blame for the derailment, as the train from New Taipei City to Taitung left the tracks in Yilan while traveling at nearly twice the permissible speed, the reports said.

Separately at the Legislative Yuan yesterday, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Liu Chao-hao (劉櫂豪) said it made no sense that the ATP system had passed inspections in 2013 if it was riddled with problems.

At a joint news conference with DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), Liu said that information should be preserved for future investigations, adding that the administrative branch of the TRA should begin talks with the Japanese company instead of exchanging letters.

There are still 17 Puyuma Express trains running, and the TRA, as well as the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, must launch investigations into faults admitted by the Japanese company, Liu said.

Currently operating units should not cause other incidents due to system shortcomings, Liu said.

Hsiao said that a general inquiry must be launched regarding the process of purchasing Puyuma trains to understand whether aspects had been irregularly handled.

The results of the investigation must be made known, even if no flaws are found, she said, adding that such transparency would allay fears harbored by travelers.

Steps must be taken to guarantee the safety of people traveling in the Hualien and Taitung areas, Hsiao added.

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