Thu, Oct 19, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Agencies clash over transport safety council

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) and Aviation Safety Council (ASC) appear to disagree on whether a single national transportation safety and investigation council should be formed, lawmakers said yesterday as they questioned Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) over apparent backtracking on the issue.

Officials from the two agencies attended a Transportation Committee meeting at the Legislative Yuan, in which they briefed lawmakers on whether they think one independent agency should investigate all transportation incidents.

The ASC investigates aviation incidents, while the ministry probes accidents or incidents on railways, freeways and waterways.

ASC Chairman Hwung Hwung-hweng (黃煌煇) said that establishing an independent investigation council is necessary.

However, the Institute of Transportation — the ministry’s think tank — said that the government would aim to reinforce the independence and professionalism of all existing agencies charged with investigating transportation-related incidents before forming a single agency for the task.

The ASC and the ministry appear to differ on the matter, lawmakers said.

The ministry does not oppose the establishment of a national agency, Hochen said, adding that it should be a long-term goal.

Similar organizations in other nations do not handle all types of investigation, Hochen said, using the example of the US National Transportation Safety Board, which handles mainly aviation and certain types of highway, marine and railway accidents.

Based on a plan proposed by the ASC, the proposed council would have between seven and 11 commissioners, and 50 personnel.

It would be practically impossible for such an agency to investigate all types of transportation incidents, Hochen said.

“It is easy to create an agency, but the most important thing is outlining how the agency would function and what types of accidents it would investigate. It would take at least six months to study the matter,” he said, adding that it would take another two to three years to form such an agency.

Transportation Committee members disagreed.

The number of aviation accidents has greatly fallen following the formation of the ASC, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said.

Lee asked if Hochen had reversed his position on establishing an independent safety council, since he and former premier Lin Chuan (林全) last year promised that they would do so.

The validity of the ministry’s investigations into railway and marine accidents are questionable because it is essentially the referee and player, DPP Legislator Chen Ou-po (陳歐珀) said.

There have been cases of retired Civil Aeronautics Administration officials becoming ASC chairpeople or investigators, Chen said, adding that people would be skeptical of investigation results if they are conducted by the same group of people.

However, an independent agency would ensure the transparency of investigations and results, DPP Legislator Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said.

The ASC always makes investigations of aviation incidents public, but the ministry has never done so for railway accident investigations, Lin said.

Major freeway accidents that involve casualties are often investigated by prosecutors, who are not necessarily transportation experts, New Power Party Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸) said.

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