The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) yesterday asked Taiwan High Speed Rail Co (THSRC, 台灣高鐵) to resolve technical malfunctions that have affected the railway’s reliability.
“We can’t allow the same thing to happen once every four days or even once every four months,” MOTC Vice Minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said. “THSRC must come up with a solution.”
Yesterday was the first time the ministry took a tougher line on the operational problems.
Yeh made the statement after a series of incidents interrupted the service.
Yesterday, four trains were delayed for more than 30 minutes because of a power outage near Miaoli on the southbound track.
The company maintained two-way operation on a single track for about two hours before it resumed normal operations at 2:20pm.
Bureau of Taiwan High Speed Rail Deputy Director Hu Hsiang-lin (胡湘麟) said the outage occurred when two transformers went down at a power house near Dali (大里), Taichung County.
It remained unclear what caused the transformers to break down.
On Saturday, the operation control center could not detect a signal from a track switch on the Miaoli section and was forced to cancel five trains and delay another 20.
On Monday, the same problem occurred in Yunlin, prompting THSRC to cancel seven trains.
Hu said the bureau could not use the Railway Act (鐵路法) to penalize THSRC for the track switch problems, but “can check if [THSRC] has followed standard operating procedures for regular maintenance of the devices.”
“If not, the company will be fined between NT$300,000 [US$9,180] and NT$1 million for failing to observe regulations stated in Article 56 of the Railway Act.”
The company has been fined twice. One fine was for allowing an unlicensed driver to operate a train, while the other followed a collision of two THSRC maintenance vehicles that left eight personnel injured.
THSRC was fined NT$300,000 for each incident.
Hu said 22 track switch problems had been reported since the high speed rail’s launch two years ago.
“We have classified the problems into seven categories. A majority of the track switch problems were related to end position detectors [EPD], which are supposed to send signals to inform the control center that the track has been put into position,” Hu said.
Others problems with the track switches included malfunctions with switch blades and fasteners.
“We are scheduled to hold a meeting next week to inspect the high speed rail’s maintenance records,” Hu said. “We will also ask the manufacturer [Siemens] of the track switches to dispatch personnel to Taiwan to identify the cause of the problem.”