Mon, Mar 20, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Reward offered in rail accident

FINANCIAL INCENTIVE The government announced a reward for any leads on the identities of the people who damaged tracks in Pingtung County on Friday

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

In the wake of the Pingtung County derailment that killed one person and injured two others, the government announced over the weekend that it would offer a cash reward for information that identifies people suspected of tampering with the tracks before last Friday's accident.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications said it would offer a NT$5 million (US$152,000) reward for the information.

Meanwhile, the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) said that it will install a surveillance system along the Fang-yeh (枋野) to Nei-shih (內獅) section of the South Link Line, where the accident occurred.

The TRA has also asked the Railway Police Station to increase their patrols of the area. Besides the routine check before the day's first train departs, Railway Police officers and TRA employees will take turns patrolling the area during the nighttime and between runs that are separated by long periods of time.

The National Police Agency (NPA) has decided to support the TRA with 220 railway police officers that were initially recruited for the official operation of the Taiwan High Speed Rail project.

A special task force has been established to investigate the cause of the accident.

But the administration's efforts failed to ease the anger and frustration of the family of injured employee Wu Chi-tai (吳奇泰), who said yesterday they were displeased with the way the government has dealt with the accident. They said the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government only cared about the anti-China protest it organized on Saturday, while ignoring their suffering.

"[The government] says it talked to 100,000 people at the protest, but they didn't even care enough to send 10 people down here," the family member said.

The derailment last week left a Vietnamese passenger dead and two TRA employees injured. It also forced the administration to cancel all the train runs along the South Link Line on Saturday morning.

The TRA has suffered estimated losses of NT$60 million, its biggest losses due to an accident in the past five years.

A preliminary investigation showed that "fishplates" connecting rail segments, screws and and other parts had been removed from the tracks at the section where the train derailed.

Similar cases of track being sabotaged have occurred six times on the same section within the past two years.

"This must have been done by professionals," said deputy director of the Railway Police Bureau Cheng-Kuang (李振光), adding that the bureau had its own suspects in the tampering, but lacks sufficient evidence to pursue them at this point.

Railway officials believe the perpetrators must possess extensive knowledge of the rail system and track engineering, enabling them to take advantage of a 76-minute gap between two runs to quickly remove the "fishplates" and other parts.

Railway police have investigated thousands of suspects using TRA records, which include lists of former and current employees, and are zeroing in on those who had disputes with the agency over layoffs, work performance assessments or other matters.

It is also looking at railway construction project bidders, including those whose bids failed.

Investigators say that the lack of any extortion attempt shows that the perpetrators' main motivation was to make a statement.

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