Thu, Nov 02, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Human error caused derailment

HIGH SPEED RAILWAY Wu Fu-Hsiang said the train was operating at 7kph when it came off its tracks, and deviated just 50cm from the rail. No major damage was done

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Bureau of High Speed Rail Director Wu Fu-hsiang (吳福祥) said yesterday that the derailment of a high-speed train at Tsoying (左營) Station on Tuesday night occurred as a result of human error.

"Problems have emerged ever since the company began testing the stability of the system last year," Wu said. "And it is a relief that any technical problem happens before the high-speed railway becomes operational."

Wu made the remarks in the legislative transportation committee, at which lawmakers were scheduled to review the budget for the Institute of Transportation under the Ministry for Transportation and Communications (MOTC). Most of the questions, however, were targeted at the derailment accident.

People First Party Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) said yesterday that the accident showed that the Taiwan High Speed Rail Co (THSRC) and the Bureau of High Speed Rail have problems communicating with each other.

"Passengers will be forced to be guinea pigs for the first half year of operation [of the High Speed Rail]," Liu said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wang Yu-ting (王昱婷) noted that MOTC must conduct a thorough investigation into the incident. Wang suggested that the ministry establish an investigative committee immediately, following procedures similar to those applied after a plane crash.

Wu told the press yesterday evening that the derailment occurred while the company was testing the train on the deployment tracks.

The train was about to back up into one of the deployment tunnels for its 10th test run.

The chief of the train crew, however, failed to notice that the derailer on the tracks was not opened. The rain then derailed, causing the first car to deviate from the track for about 50cm.

According to a THSRC statement, the derailer installed in the high-speed rail system is in fact a safety device to prohibit unauthorized trains from entering the main rail track.

When a train is authorized to enter, the derailer will automatically flip open to allow it to proceed. A train will be forced to go off the track if the system has identified it as unauthorized.

Wu said the train was traveling at 7kph at the time. The damaged parts included the bogie and the obstacle deflector and sand box that were attached to it, seven crossties and five sets of rail clips. The track width was stretched from 1.435mm to 1.453mm.

Wu said that the incident will certainly be included in the inspection report that will be issued by Lloyd's Register.

Media has speculated that language might have played a role in the accident -- the driver was French, the chief of crew Taiwanese and the traffic controler Japanese.

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