Tue, May 11, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Inspections added after HSR driver falls asleep

YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSEA bullet train driver who fell asleep at the wheel for 13 minutes while operating a Zuoying-Taipei train late last month has been fired

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC) said yesterday it would increase the frequency of random inspections after a driver was found to have dozed off for about 13 minutes while operating a train.

THSRC spokesperson Ted Chia (賈先德) said the incident occurred on April 24 when the driver was operating a northbound train from ­Zuoying (左營) to Taipei.

When the driver, in his 30s, failed to respond to the Driver’s Safety Device, the control center had asked the train conductor to double check, Chia said.

The train conductor then found the driver reacting slowly to the instructions from the control center and recommended that the center replace the driver, Chia said, adding that the control center took over the operation of the train, which stopped safely at the Taichung High Speed Rail station at 5:13pm.

“When a train is about to enter the station, the speed limit is 30kph. However, the train was over the limit at 31kph, so we also had to activate the emergency brake system,” Chia said.

The train was delayed for four minutes because of the change of drivers.

Chia said the driver was later examined at Chung Shan Medical University Hospital in Taichung City and was found to have overtaken sleeping pills. The driver also admitted he had a sleeping disorder and had taken the pills from friends, without seeking medical help.

Chia said the driver, who started working for THSRC in 2008, obtained his driver’s license last year and has been operating trains for about a year.

The pilot was fired on Monday last week after it was determined that he violated regulations, Chia said. Aside from increasing the number of random inspections, the company has also added a list of medications that can induce lethargic reactions as one of the items to be inspected, he said.

Bureau of High Speed Rail ­director-general Chu Shu (朱旭) said he was not apprised of the incident until Thursday.

The bureau is an administrative agency under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications that oversees THSRC.

Chu said the company did not report the incident immediately after it happened. He has asked THSRC to hand in a detailed report on the incident, adding that it will launch an investigation and may interview the pilot.

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