Thu, Jul 26, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Cable car to take a break on Mondays

CHECKUPS Ongoing problems with the new Maokong Gondola have persuaded the Taipei City Government to perform weekly safety inspections

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

In response to a number of recent mishaps, the Taipei City Government announced yesterday that it would take the Maokong cable car system out of service every Monday to conduct regular inspections.

The new schedule will come into effect next week, when inspections and maintenance of the system's cabins, tires and other equipment will begin. However, the cable car may be opened to the public on a Monday if it is a national holiday, the city government said.

"Although the city government continues to have confidence in the cable car, we and the evaluation committee agreed that regular checkups are a necessary procedure -- especially for such a new system," Taipei City Secretariat Deputy Director Yang Hsi-an (楊錫安) told a press conference yesterday at Taipei City Hall.

Yang said that the frequent equipment failures had put pressure on the city government and prompted it to cut the number of operating days to ensure the stability of the system.

The cable car suffered a major equipment failure last Saturday, which left some 300 visitors trapped in the cabins for more than two hours. Another four-hour shutdown took place on Tuesday after unusual noises were heard.

Statistics from the Taipei Rapid Transit Corp (TRTC) show that approximately 15,000 passengers take the gondola every day, and halting the service on Mondays will result in losses of around NT$750,000 per day.

While declining to discuss the financial loss, Yang said the city government would demand that French company POMA, the system's builder, supply more spare parts.

Lee Shu-chuan (李四川), director of the city's New Construction Department, said that POMA had not supplied sufficient spare parts such as screws and axles, which forced the department to find the materials in local shops when fixing the equipment failure last Saturday.

Yang said that although POMA had only assigned one engineer to stay on in Taiwan, the company was still responsible for overseeing maintenance of the system for a three-year period.

Yang said that as the system was at the point of "substantial completion," rather than final acceptance, the three-year guarantee period hadn't formally begun.

In response to concerns about running the system before final acceptance, Yang said the Taipei MRT system had also started operations at the substantial completion stage with no major problems.

"Running the system now gives us the chance to discover any issues that we would otherwise be unable to notice," he said.

Noting that POMA's other gondola system at Hualien's Ocean Park had experienced no serious equipment failures in five years, Yang said that the Maokong system was more complex because of its longer length and two sharp turns.

"The city government has been testing the system since January, and we are confident that the Maokong cable car's operations will eventually be as good as Taipei's MRT system," he added.

The cable car will operate from 9am to 10pm from Tuesday to Friday, and from 8:30am to 10pm on weekends and holidays.

Yang said the cable car may resume service on Mondays if regular checkups failed to identify any significant problems.

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