Wed, Oct 01, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Maokong Gondola back in business despite protests

By Mo Yan-Chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Maokong Gondola resumed operation yesterday amid criticism from Taipei City councilors and residents, who accused the city government of ignoring safety concerns after a mud slide hit a community under one of the gondola stations.

“The Taipei City Government disregards people’s lives. The Maokong Gondola should halt operations immediately,” a group of residents shouted at city government officials yesterday as they accompanied a Taipei City councilor in inspecting the gondola.

Torrential rain brought by Super Typhoon Jangmi triggered mud slides that hit some communities in Muzha (木柵) on Monday, forcing hundreds of households to evacuate.

One mud slide occurred right under the gondola’s Corner 2 station — one of two service stations where passengers do not board. The mudslide was near two support pillars, but the city government said the pillars were stable.

Taipei City Secretariat Deputy Director Tan Kuo-kuang (譚國光), a former Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC) vice president, said the TRTC, which operates the gondola, began test runs on Monday afternoon and had concluded that the mud slides had not caused damage.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Lin Yi-hua (林奕華) showed city government officials where part of a cliff had crumbled in the storm, condemning the administration for overlooking the danger posed to residents and gondola passengers if the cable car continued to operate.

Hsu Li-chuan (徐莉娟), the director of a management committee in a nearby community, said rocks and earth had continued to roll from the cliff last night during the test run.

Hsu said the area had not seen mud slides of this nature before the construction of the cable car, suggesting that the project was to blame.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City Councilor Lee Ching-feng (李慶鋒) agreed with Lin, lashing out at the city government and the TRTC for compromising public safety to reopen the gondola immediately after the storm.

“Why the urgency to resume operation immediately after the mud slides? What’s more important — money or human life?” Lee asked during a question-and-answer session at Taipei City Council.

Lee and several other DPP councilors demanded that the TRTC suspend operation of the cable car until an inspection report was complete.

TRTC chairman Tsai Hui-sheng (蔡輝昇) said various departments of the city government had evaluated the situation and agreed that reopening the gondola would not pose any danger to local residents or passengers.

DPP Taipei City Councilor Chien Yu-yen (簡余晏) urged officials to monitor the stability of the pillars as another typhoon could be on the way and said the council would demand that those responsible resign from their posts if any accidents occur.

The Maokong Gondola opened in July last year.

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