Wed, Jul 17, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Stiffer penalties for ex-TRA heads

PUYUMA DERAILMENT:Three former directors-general were given heavier administrative punishments, after a review ordered by new transport minister Lin Chia-lung

Staff writer, with CNA

Heavier administrative punishments have been finalized against three former directors-general of the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) in connection with the fatal derailment of a Puyuma train in Yilan County on Oct. 21 last year.

In its final report issued on Monday, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said that Jason Lu (鹿潔身), the agency’s head at the time of the accident, would be given a major demerit and a demerit, instead of only a major demerit.

Lu had ignored the longstanding problems with the Puyuma train’s air compressor system, which played a major role in the crash, the report said.

It was because of a malfunctioning air compressor that train driver Yu Chen-chung (尤振仲) turned off the automatic train protection (ATP) system on Oct. 18, which prevents trains from speeding.

The train was traveling at about 140kph — double the speed limit — when it entered a curve near Suao Township’s (蘇澳) Sinma Station (新馬).

Tourism Bureau Director-General Chou Yung-hui (周永暉), who was TRA’s head from 2014 to 2016, is to receive two demerits, instead of one.

Chou failed to implement strict inspections of train operations and continued to leave the ATP system unconnected with the central control room, which meant the TRA could not be immediately informed when a train’s ATP system was deactivated, the report said.

Frank Fan (范植谷), the longest-serving TRA head who is now chairman of the CR Classification Society, a state agency, was given the heaviest penalty — one major demerit and two demerits, instead of one demerit.

It was during his 2007 to 2014 tenure that the TRA purchased and took delivery of the Japanese-built Puyuma trains.

Fan was negligent in the purchase of the trains and their testing and operations, including overlooking the ATP problems, the report said.

The punishments for active officials would affect their performance evaluation and promotion opportunities, while retirees could see their pensions reduced, the ministry has said, though it refused to elaborate.

Lu chose to resign and retire.

The ministry’s initial recommendations of administrative punishments was made in December last year following an investigation into the accident by a government committee.

However, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) ordered the ministry to reopen the investigation after he took office in January, saying the punishments were too light.

Lin on April 17 announced that the punishments for Lu, Chou and Fan were being increased, but the ministry was waiting for the Executive Yuan to approve the revised list of TRA personnel subject to punishment.

The derailment of Puyuma Express No. 6432 from New Taipei City to Taitung killed 18 passengers and injured 267.

Yilan County prosecutors on June 6 indicted Yu and two TRA supervisors on charges of criminal negligence in connection with the derailment.

The three are awaiting trial.

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