Tue, Mar 13, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers pan TRA over safety

CRUMBLING FACILITIES:So far this year, 87 abnormalities and 16 accidents have been recorded on railway lines, seven of which occurred in the past 30 days alone

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The safety of the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) system was under scrutiny yesterday at a meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee in Taipei following a series of incidents and abnormalities since last year.

The railway operator last year recorded 46 major accidents, including derailments on major lines, and accidents resulting in deaths and injuries, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said.

It also reported 20 smaller accidents and 443 abnormalities, he said, with the former including derailments on branch lines or suspension of operations, while the latter include delays caused by malfunctioning safety devices, electricity facilities and carriages.

This year, 16 accidents have been recorded, seven of which happened within the past 30 days, while 87 abnormalities have been reported, Lee said.

These accidents show that the TRA’s safety system has crumbled, Lee said, adding that this year is likely to see at least as many accidents as last year.

Someone in the agency’s higher management should step down if there is another major accident this year, he said.

Train switches malfunctioned frequently, and at one point, two electricity cables broke in one day, DPP Legislator Cheng Pao-ching (鄭寶清) said, adding that these incidents were the result of either antiquated facilities or personnel errors.

The agency should replace the facilities or increase the number of people maintaining and patrolling the railways, Cheng said.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) said that the Executive Yuan has approved the ministry’s proposal to hire more TRA workers, who would also fill some vacant positions.

Switches and pantographs mounted on the roofs of electric trains break down more frequently than other devices, Hochen said, adding that the TRA would address these two issues first.

TRA safety would be overseen by the agency’s operational safety committee and the soon-to-be established railway bureau, he said.

The ministry might allow the agency to adjust train schedules, particularly those operating very early and very late, to increase the amount of time available for inspections and maintenance, Hochen said.

Construction on the South Link Railway went smoothly, because similar train service adjustments were made, he said.

“We believe people understand that the move was made to ensure that the trains will operate safely,” Hochen added.

The agency is inspecting all pantographs and electricity cables, TRA Director-General Jason Lu (鹿潔身) said, adding that the task would be completed by Tuesday next week.

Problems found during the inspection would be addressed immediately, and the agency would use the results to determine if it needs more time for inspections and maintenance, Lu said.

Many senior TRA employees have chosen to retire in recent years, including experienced maintenance workers, Lu added.

The agency is considering rehiring some of the maintenance workers to teach skills to new employees, while those who switch to new positions would also undergo training, Lu said.

The TRA uses the break in operations from 12am to 5am to conduct maintenance, Lu said, adding that sometimes a longer period is needed when more serious problems are detected.

Lu also apologized for the series of accidents, saying that the agency encountered the most difficulties fixing pantographs for the push-pull Tzuchiang-class trains.

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