Thu, Nov 09, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Bullet train could be operational within weeks

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Officials said that the entry into operation of the High Speed Rail is imminent, and both the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and Taiwan High Speed Rail Co have said it could be launched either later this month or early next month.

"The Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) report, issued by the Lloyd's Register, said that the High Speed Rail is a complete system in terms of its design, framework and safety rules," Minister of Transportation and Communications Tsai Duei (蔡堆) said.

"Nevertheless, the Taiwan High Speed Rail Co [THSRC] still needs to work on a few items before it can be certified," Tsai added.

Tsai made the remarks at the Legislative's Transportation Committee yesterday, when the committee was set to review the budget of the transportation ministry for the next fiscal year.

The committee further adopted a resolution stipulating that the THSRC could not allow any passenger -- including civilians and celebrities -- to board the bullet train before the system passes the inspection.

According to Tsai, Lloyd's had issued an earlier IV&V report.

The copy which the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) received on Tuesday evening showed the findings of an evaluation on whether the company had improved the system based on the suggestions mentioned in a prior document.

Inspectors said in the second report that the design of the system is valid.

The company had also followed its own specifications, requirements and obligations regarding the High Speed Rail "with no significant deviations," the document said.

The operation of the High Speed Rail "generally complies with the requirements described in its own safety guidelines," it said. However, the report also stated several limitations.

First of all, it emphasized that the certificate is only "for the initial phase and phase 2," meaning that safety is only guaranteed when the company runs no more than 38 trains per day in the initial stage of the operation.

The report also mentioned that more evidence is required to validate its core system, particularly the train's signaling system.

The evaluation must prove that the system is "safe and fit for the purpose," the document said.

In order to secure the certification for the entire route, the THSRC must also provide evidence of operations under both normal and emergency conditions at Taipei Main Station.

Based on the report's findings, the company's operations can only be validated through additional drills and exercises and completion of "adequate stable period of trial operations."

The report also required that the company demonstrate its ability to comply with the conditions for safe operation of the High Speed Rail.

These conditional clauses did not seem to undermine Tsai's confidence in the High Speed Rail, which he believed could begin operation next month.

"The inauguration ceremony is scheduled for the 7th of next month, which leaves the company almost a month to fix all the problems," he said.

"The chance of an official operation launched on time remains high," he added.

Arthur Chiang (江金山), the THSRC's spokesperson, said the company would be able to address the issues brought up in the Lloyd's report within a short period of time.

"And if you consider that, the date [Nov. 25] is about right," he said.

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