Fri, Oct 02, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Ministry criticized over travel chaos

BACKLOG PLAN:DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim said the Ministry of Transportation and Communications could use other airports if there is a backlog during a typhoon

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Minister of Transportation and Communications Chen Chien-yu, left, bows during a question-and-answer session at a meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications yesterday faced mounting criticism from the legislature’s Transportation Committee over chaos at railway stations and Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport after Typhoon Dujuan on Monday.

Lawmakers said the ministry did not have contingency plans and was slow to react to the extreme situation.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said that the Central Weather Bureau issued a sea alert for Dujuan on Sunday morning and issued a land alert on Sunday afternoon.

“However, the ministry did not announce the suspension of railway services until Sunday night,” Lee said, adding that the announcement came too late.

“The train stations were a mess because they did not separate arriving passengers from those preparing to depart,” he said.

“Passengers were coming into the stations like they were refugees,” he added.

Passengers looking to board flights at the Taoyuan airport also experienced severe delays because of a backlog of flights, Lee said, adding that the private sector suffered losses because the airport suspended cargo services.

DPP Legislator Chen Ou-po (陳歐珀) said the ministry should have announced plans to suspend railway services earlier, adding that it stations and airports should hold drills before major holidays so staff are better prepared for similar situations.

DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) said the ministry should consider whether international flights could use other airports if a typhoon leads to a backlog of flights at the Taoyuan airport.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) said she agreed with the ministry’s decision to suspend railway services.

Yang said that there would always be complaints about inconvenience in such situations, but lives are more important than any inconvenience.

She said that people who bought, but because of the typhoon did not use high-speed rail tickets should be allowed to reschedule trips with unused early-bird tickets, which are usually non-refundable, but added that the company should not have to refund ticket holders because of delays caused by the typhoon.

The costs would have to be paid using taxpayers’ money, Yang said.

She asked whether the ministry would be seeking compensation for the typhoon if it planned to issue refunds.

DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) said passengers should not be too harsh on railway and airport staff, as they worked extra hours during holidays to help travelers.

However, the transport ministry should communicate with the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labor and even the Directorate-General of Personnel Administration to make sure that people who were unable to make it to work due to train delays caused by the typhoon have their absence waived without needing to request leave, Yeh said.

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