The Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) yesterday said it would soon carry out an across-the-board overhaul of its signs at its stations nationwide after an investigation during the Lunar New Year holiday found that changes may be necessary in as many as 50,000 instances.
TRA director-general Frank Fan (范植谷) said the situation should be remedied as quickly as possible and that the first step was to strive for correctness and consistency.
The translation of TRA station names and signs is inconsistent and every time a mistake is found, only that specific instance is corrected. Since the problem keeps reccurring, however, the TRA leadership has lost patience and Fan issued instructions prior to the Lunar New Year holiday that each section and each station be inspected, so that “we don’t wait to make changes after we read about them in the papers.”
The TRA initially estimated that the matter could be quickly addressed, but after the investigation results came in on Friday, it found that as many as 50,000 problems at 216 stations had to be corrected.
Yen Wen-chung (顏文忠), a TRA operations section head, said many strange mistakes were found, adding that 90 percent of the time the problem was that Tongyong or Hanyu Romanization systems were not consistently implemented.
The reason for these inconsistencies was that after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) came to power in 2008, an order was issued that the Hanyu spelling system be used. Stations with more personnel corrected most of the signs themselves, while delaying more complex ones until a budget was allocated to implement the remaining changes.
As a result, the name of a station can be Romanized differently — even at the station itself. One example is Cidu station, where the station name is given both as Cidu (七堵) following Tongyong Romanization, and Qidu, as per Hanyu Romanization.
The TRA said this kind of problem was found at more than 10,000 locations in the Kaohsiung area.
Another issue is inconsistent English language usage. For example, stations use lavatory, restroom and toilet for the public restrooms.
Fan said that although these were all correct translations, usage should be consistent.
In some stations, pedestrian overpasses were called over-bridges, elevated pedestrian crosswalks and overpasses, a problem that Yen said could be the result of translation software.
Fan said that since the problem was much bigger than expected, it would have to be dealt with in stages, with the first stage focusing on correctness and consistency.