Fri, Mar 07, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Chen vows Alishan train line will return to service


President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁)vowed yesterday to get the Alishan train service up and running again after it was suspended following last Saturday's fatal derailment.

In a letter to the public posted on his personal Web site, Chen said that as Alishan's narrow-gauge railroad is one of the only railroads of its kind in the world, "we will not give up this well-known part of our heritage because of a setback."

Chen said the authorities should ensure that there is no repeat of this kind of accident.

The derailment occurred when a train loaded with some 200 people went off the track shortly after leaving the Alishan station, killing 17 people and injuring scores more.

Investigators have found that a vital valve in the train's braking system was closed, leading to a brake failure that allowed the train to run at a speed of about 40kph on a stretch of railway with a speed limit of just 16 to 18kph.

Chen visited the injured at hospitals on Sunday. He said the scenes at the hospitals brought to mind memories of serving as mayor of Taipei City, when he was afraid to hear the sirens of ambulances or fire trucks because it meant some families were in the midst of an emergency.

However, he encouraged people to face adversity with courage.

In a related story, Premier Yu Shyi-kun said the Council of Agriculture has been authorized to negotiate compensation with the families of the victims, who have asked for NT$11.9 million (US$343,930) for each person killed in the accident.

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