The legislature’s Transportation Committee yesterday asked the government to establish an independent transport safety agency to investigate accidents following the nation’s deadliest freeway bus crash last month.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Chen Ou-po (陳歐珀) and Lee Kuen-tse (李昆澤) proposed the formation of the agency at a committee meeting, at which Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) was asked to brief members on how the ministry is handling the aftermath of the Feb. 13 crash that killed 33 people on a ramp connecting the Chiang Wei-shui Memorial Freeway (National Freeway No. 5) to the Formosa Freeway (National Freeway No. 3) in Taipei’s Nangang District (南港).
Before the briefing, committee members observed a minute of silence for those killed in the crash.
Chen said that the Aviation Safety Council investigates air accidents and is the only agency that probes crashes on the nation’s transport systems.
He said that an independent and credible national transport safety council should be established to investigate major transportation incidents.
The government should not pass the buck whenever something unfortunate happens, Chen said.
“In the past, drivers killed in accidents were often blamed,” Lee said. “However, in cases where the driver survived, the vehicles became the cause. This is why people do not trust the results of investigations.”
The US, Canada and Australia have agencies such as the one proposed, Lee said, adding that officials overseeing transport systems should not be investigating accidents.
Hochen seconded the suggestion to form an independent agency.
The investigation into the crash in Nangang was directed by the Ministry of Justice, Hochen said.
Chen and DPP Legislator Cheng Pao-ching (鄭寶清) said that the ministry should install rolling barriers — a device developed in South Korea to soften collisions with guardrails — at the site of the Nangang crash.
Hochen said that the transportation ministry would spend six months reviewing the possibility of installing rolling barriers on freeways, but its top priority was to reinspect the Nangang crash site.
The transportation ministry is to reconsider the signs indicating the corner and enhance reflective traffic signs, Hochen said.
The committee passed 16 motions proposed by lawmakers. One of the key motions was that the nation’s 5,157 tour buses that have been in operation for more than 10 years should undergo slope tests.
Buses that fail the slope tests would be banned from operating on mountain roads 500m above sea level, the motion says.
Other motions included requiring the installation of electronic stability systems on large passenger vehicles, which should be completed by Jan. 1 next year, and the completion within a year of legislation to regulate independent tour bus owners doing contract work.
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