Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC) yesterday said the sudden power shortage on Saturday that forced service to be temporarily suspended was mainly the result of salt damage and humidity beyond expected levels, leading to the malfunction of section insulators.
Malfunctioning insulators between Yunlin and Changhua stations disrupted the power supply to the system between 11:21am and 1:39pm, forcing the delay or cancellation of 32 trains, which affected more than 33,000 passengers.
The interruption led many people to complain about the company’s poor emergency response measures and question the quality of its service, since it was the second time high-speed rail services were suspended this year after a signaling abnormality on April 25 disrupted travel. A recent ticket price hike has also angered people.
THSRC officials met yesterday morning to examine the cause and fallout from Saturday’s incident.
THSRC chairman Ou Chin-der (歐晉德) said he told company officials to learn from the incident and make an effort to improve service.
At a press conference in the afternoon, THSRC chief operating officer Chang Huan-kuang (張煥光) bowed and apologized to the public.
“The company will examine itself and improve its efforts to provide information and communicate with high-speed rail passengers,” he said.
He said the company discovered that because of a high level of salt damage and humidity, the insulators, which work by using air as electrical insulation, discharged electricity like lightning, resulting in an abnormal power supply.
THSRC had considered the possible effects by salt damage and humidity, so it has already adjusted the frequency of its maintenance and cleaning schedule for section insulator switches from biannually to once a month, Chang said, adding that it did not expect such high levels of salt damage and humidity.
Company official Chen Chang (陳強) said there have been six intermittent power shortages, so sometimes the power went off shortly after the power supply had normalized, and the problem was finally solved when maintenance personnel arrived to replace the device.
The THSRC said it will refund tickets at any stations within a year, but cannot pay compensation for the service interruption.
Consumers’ Foundation board member Yu Kai-hsiung (游開雄) said THSRC should consider offering special discount tickets to compenstate inconvenienced consumers.