Thu, Jul 30, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Taipei City officials sue ‘Next’ over Neihu MRT story

WALKING THE LINE The magazine claims the July 10 shutdown of the Neihu Line was due to human error and passengers’ lives had been put in danger

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

The problematic MRT Neihu Line had Taipei City Government officials in attack mode yesterday as they slammed the line’s contractors for trying to shift responsibility for a system shutdown and filed a NT$100 million (US$3 million) lawsuit against the Chinese-language Next Magazine over a story about the shutdown.

The Neihu Line shut down on July 10 because of a sudden power outage. The latest issue of the weekly magazine quoted an anonymous source as saying the shutdown was the result of human error on the part of a Taipei Rapid Transit Corp (TRTC) employee.

The magazine claimed that after the TRTC employee hit a wrong switch, triggering the power outage, the company failed to follow its standard operating procedure and risked passengers’ lives by forcing 700 of them to walk them along the elevated rail lines to reach the nearest station platform.

Next claimed Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) asked staff to delete the minutes of a meeting city officials held with the system’s builder, Montreal-based Bombardier, and the head contractor, Kung Sing Engineering Corp, to place all the blame on the contractors.

Taipei City Secretariat Deputy Director Tan Gwa-guang (譚國光), head of the Neihu Line emergency response team, led Law and Regulation Commissioner Yeh Ching-yuan (葉慶元) and top TRTC officials yesterday in denying the story. They said the city would demand that Bombardier and Kung Sing Engineering Corp keep their promises by increasing the line’s stability to 99 percent by November.

“Next Magazine changed black into white and printed a sensational story knowing that the accusations were not true,” Yeh said at the Taipei City Hall.

“The story was clearly helping the contractors to shift responsibility onto us and damaged TRTC’s reputation,” he said.

Yeh and Tan slammed the magazine as “amateurish” for claiming that passengers who had to walk along the tracks could have been electrocuted had the power come back as they were walking.

“This was a very amateurish assumption. The TRTC had cut all the power to the system and restarting the system involves complicated procedures,” Tan said.

Making passengers disembark and walk along the tracks to reach a station platform was standard procedure, he said.

Tan said the shutdown was caused by an outage of the “uninterruptible” power supply system at Zhongshan Junior High School Station.

He also said the three minor malfunctions on Tuesday, when the some car doors on the Muzha and Neihu lines could not close, were fixed in three to five minutes.

The system will gradually stabilize, he said, adding that the city would seek compensation from Bombardier and Kung Sing after the testing period ends.

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