Engineering experts yesterday confirmed that the Maokong Gondola system was situated in a sensitive area prone to landslides, and they urged the Taipei City Government to relocate the damaged support pillar known as Tower No. 16 to the northeast or southwest for the sake of the line’s safety.
“It is our conclusion and suggestion that the erosion around Tower No. 16 will continue and the tower should be relocated. However, the final decision is for the city government to make,” Shih Yi-fang (施義芳), spokesman for four civil engineering associations said yesterday at the Taipei Professional Civil Engineering Association.
The four associations were invited by the city government to conduct an evaluation on the system after the base of Tower No. 16 was eroded by mudslides. A full report was released yesterday and sent to the city government.
In the 120-page report, the associations said the tower was built in a sensitive area, and the heavy rains brought by typhoons accelerated the erosion. The city government should complete land conservation work on the slope and prevent further construction in that area, it said.
Shih said the selection of the location was not included among the evaluated items, but the Construction Law (建築法) states that areas that are prone to landslides and erosions should not be developed.
Lan Chao-hsiang (藍朝祥), director of the Taipei Structural Engineers Association, declined to comment on the city government’s failure to follow the suggestions and relocate the pillar immediately, and insisted that the associations’ duty was to present the evaluation.
“Even if the city government is not happy about what we said, our evaluation and suggestions remain the same,” he said.
The associations suggested that the damaged pillar be relocated 20m to 30m away from its current site, while urging the city government to complete Environmental Impact Assessments and land conservation plans before breaking ground on major construction projects for the sake of public safety.
In response, Taipei City Government spokesman Yang Hsiao-tung (羊曉東) said the evaluation report, which said the erosion was caused by the sensitive geology and heavy rain during the period, proved that Tower No. 16 was not the main cause of the erosion.
Yang said French company POMA, which was responsible for building and installing the gondola, had already sent staff to Taiwan on Thursday to discuss methods of dismantling the wire cable and cabins of the system.
The city government and POMA were also searching for alternative sites for the pillar, but the city government had not abandoned the possibility of rebuilding the pillar on its current site, he said.
Yang said the city government’s goal was to resume the gondola’s operation, but there would be no timetable as to when the service would reopen to the public.
Taipei City’s Department of Government Ethics is conducting a report on the responsibility of city officials in the construction of the gondola. Yang said the report was not yet complete.