Thu, Oct 02, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Maokong Gondola closed for evaluation of erosion

HELLO IN THERE Taipei City councilors stood in the 2.5m-deep hole left by torrential rains under a pillar and accused the government of negligence

By Mo Yan-Chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei City councilors Chuang Ruei-hsiung and Hung Chien-i stand in a hole yesterday underneath a support pillar of the Maokong Gondola in Muzha, Taipei City. Cable car services have been suspended until an evaluation by engineers has been completed and the pillar is confirmed to be stable.

PHOTO: CNA

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said yesterday the Maokong Gondola would be closed until civil engineers could confirm its safety after mud slides brought by Super Typhoon Jangmi eroded the ground beneath a support pillar.

The cable car was closed at 3pm yesterday and will not open for at least a month while the evaluation is conducted by a team that will be selected by the city government, Hau told a press conference.

The decision was an about-face from the city government’s announcement on Monday that the cable car would continue to operate in spite of protests from local residents and city councilors.

Hau yesterday said the system was safe, but that the evaluation would be conducted to ease public anxiety.

“The city government’s departments had concluded that the gondola was safe, but apparently our evaluation result did not resolve public concerns. In order to ease the worries of residents, we decided to suspend the gondola’s operations,” he said.

Hau said the city government would invite civil engineers to conduct a thorough inspection on the stability of the system. Service will not resume until the results are in.

When asked whether any city officials would resign over the incident, Hau declined to respond, but said the city government had closed the cable car because it “feels the public’s pain.”

Taipei City councilors across party lines questioned Hau’s guarantee that the gondola was safe, saying the torrential rains had left a 2.5m-deep hole a few meters from a support pillar on a cliff.

Jangmi caused mud slides in Muzha (木柵) on Monday, one of which occurred directly under the gondola’s Corner 2 station — one of two service stations where passengers do not board. Part of a cliff bearing two support pillars crumbled in the storm.

Standing inside the hole beneath the pillar during an inspection yesterday, Democratic Progressive Party Taipei City councilors Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) and Chou Bo-ya (周柏雅) scooped up loose soil and trash such as plastic bags, saying it was ridiculous to call the pillar stable.

“How can this foundation be called stable and solid when rocks keep falling from the cliff? The city government is lying,” Chuang said.

Taipei City Secretariat Director Yang Hsi-an (楊錫安) said the system was “absolutely safe.”

The pillars are set into igneous rock beneath the surface, so the stability of the pillars is not affected if top soil erodes, Yang said.

In addition, more than 340 sensors placed in the gondola system’s support pillars ensure that the system will shut down automatically if any of the pillars tilt, he said.

“We have told the mayor that the system is fine and we continue to believe that the system is fine. Operations were halted to ease public concern,” he said.

Yang said suspending operations would cost the Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC) more than NT$45 million (US$1.4 million) for a month.

TRTC, the operator of the gondola, will refund any tickets purchased in advance.

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