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TRA seeks compensation from train maker, certifier

YILAN CRASH:Nippon Sharyo must take responsibility for the train’s design flaws, while Lloyd’s Register failed to pinpoint the problems, the railway agency said

Staff writer, with CNA

The logo and name of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications are displayed at the ministry in Taipei on Nov. 2, 2017.

Photo: Cheng Wei-chi, Taipei Times

The Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) yesterday said it is seeking compensation from the manufacturer of a Puyuma train model involved in a deadly derailment in October last year and a third-party quality certification provider.

The Japanese manufacturer, Nippon Sharyo, a subsidiary of Central Japan Railway Co, is responsible for the train’s design flaws, while British certification provider Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance failed to pinpoint the problems, a TRA official said.

TRA’s lawyers are drafting a letter to Sumitomo Corp, the bidder for the procurement project, asking it to pass the information to Nippon Sharyo, said Sung Hung-kang (宋鴻康), head of the TRA’s Rolling Stock Department.

The TRA plans is to take the same action against Lloyd’s, Sung said, adding that the letters are expected to be sent by the end of this month.

If the two companies accept their share of responsibility, the TRA would proceed to seek compensation, Sung said.

Nippon Sharyo has admitted a design flaw in all 19 of the Puyuma trains it sold to Taiwan, which prevents the train’s alert system from contacting the control station.

As a result, train dispatchers are not aware when the automatic train protection (ATP) system, which prevents trains from speeding, is turned off, unless the driver informs them.

The defective system played an important role in the Oct. 21 crash, when Puyuma Express No. 6432 derailed in Yilan County, while traveling at nearly twice the permissible speed limit as it entered a curve, leaving 18 people dead and 200 people injured.

The tragedy was a result of many factors, the worst being Puyuma driver Yu Chen-chung (尤振仲) turning off the ATP while trying to accelerate the train after detecting power problems he believed to have been caused by a malfunctioning air compressor, investigators have said.

Yu was at the time too distracted dealing with the power problem to report what he had done in a timely manner, the investigators said, adding that the accident could have been avoided if the ATP had been properly connected to the central control room.

Lloyd’s is also to blame for failing to examine the trains and their maintenance manuals thoroughly, and did a poor job in finding out inconsistencies in the Chinese translation of mechanical terms, Sung said.

Sung added that the TRA has kept a NT$300 million (US$9.7 million) performance bond on hold since the delivery of the trains in 2012, because some of the glitches remain unresolved.

While the crash resulted in administrative punishments for 20 former TRA officials and indirectly led to the resignation of then-minister of transportation and communication Wu Hong-mo (吳宏謀) in December, his successor, Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), reopened the case last month, saying he felt that the penalties were too light.

A second round of recommended punishments were completed by the Railway Bureau later that month, but Lin rejected them again because the content was the same.

Lin then assigned Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) to come up with a new list, which Wang yesterday said has been completed and is awaiting approval by the ministry and the Executive Yuan before being made public.

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