The government has ruled out human error as the cause of the recent Alishan Forest Railway accident, Executive Yuan spokesman Philip Yang (楊永明) said yesterday.
The accident took place on April 27 when a train was struck by a limb that fell from a ring-cupped oak tree while it was traveling between the Sacred Tree stop and Alishan Station. Four cars derailed, killing five Chinese tourists and injuring 114 others, mostly Chinese tourists.
Based on investigations conducted by both prosecutors and experts, the government determined that the accident had been caused by the tree branch, which fell as a result of a natural fracture, Yang said.
The accident was not caused by human error because the train was not overloaded, the operation of the train and railway was well maintained and the tree’s trunk showed no outward signs of decay, he said.
Service on the Alishan Forest Railway will not be scrapped because of the incident since the rail line is one of the world’s three top-ranked mountain railways and an icon for Taiwan’s tourist industry, Yang said.
To prevent similar accidents, the authorities will conduct a thorough safety-enhancement examination and spend several billion dollars on safety improvements.
The government was also mulling transferring authority for the railway from the Chiayi County government to the Council of Agriculture, and having the Taiwan Railway Administration take over its operation, which is currently provided by a private contractors.