Tue, Aug 29, 2006 - Page 2 News List

MRT firm says new batteries in place this week

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taipei Rapid Transit Corp (TRTC) said yesterday that it would replace all outdated batteries used in the Muzha Line's uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system this week.

The announcement came in the wake of a report yesterday by Apple Daily saying that 588, or about two-thirds, of the batteries used in the Muzha Line's UPS system had passed their expiry date years ago, leading to the two explosions at the Taipei Zoo MRT Station this month.

TRTC vice president Chang Huan-kwang (張煥光) said they found only 126 expired batteries being used in the Muzha Line, adding that the UPS system is maintained by contractors.

The expired batteries had been in use for 10 years, and should have been replaced when they had been in use for eight years, he said.

"The replacement should be completed this week," he added.

Chang said that the explosions on Aug. 4 and Aug. 15 were not caused by expired batteries, but admitted that a preliminary investigation showed that the malfunctioning batteries had cracks on them even before the explosions.

Chen Chiang (陳強), chief of TRTC's medium-capacity transport division, said that it was looking into what caused the cracks.

"There might have already been problems when the batteries were purchased," Chen said. "Problems could also have occurred when the batteries were being recharged. Or, there might have been something wrong with the circuits in the machine room."

The UPS system, which provides backup power, switches on automatically in the event of a power failure. It provides power to the illuminating facilities and signals until the emergency generators are activated. The batteries need to be charged all the time, and must be able to endure high temperatures.

According to the Apple Daily report, the Muzha Line's UPS system uses 896 batteries made by several different firms.

The two battery explosions did not cause any injury.

The TRTC has also put out notices advising its employees to observe caution when entering machine rooms where batteries are placed.

The incident has once again exposed safety problems in the operation of Taipei's rapid transit system. In May 2004, maintenance crews accidentally triggered the fire alarm system while testing the emergency power generators. The gas emitted from the fire alarm system affected residents living around an MRT station. The case is still under investigation.

Another accident occurred after the celebrations on New Year's Eve last year, when crowds swarmed into the MRT's Taipei Main Station. Several people tripped and fell on the escalators, with one woman getting scalped as her hair got entangled in the escalator.

The company was fined NT$400,000 for failure to manage the crowd.

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