TRA to honor railway workers

UNSUNG HEROS::The laborers who built the last stretch of the rail network that goes around Taiwan worked in perilous conditions and many lost their lives on the project

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Oct 01, 2012 - Page 3

The Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) yesterday said it would honor the workers who sacrificed their lives for the construction of the South Link Railway (南迴鐵路) in a celebration commemorating the 20th anniversary of its completion on Friday.

The 98.2km-long railway connects Fangliao (枋寮) in Pintung County and Taitung County. It was the last stretch of the around-the-nation railway network and became operational on Oct. 5, 1992.

Construction on the South Link began in 1980 and was fraught with accidents because the work was mostly carried out in mountainous areas. Workers faced the danger of sudden flooding and roof collapses while drilling tunnels along the route. A total of 21 workers died during the construction of the railway.

The Taitung County Government has built a memorial park to commemorate the building of the South Link Railway at the plaza in front of Taitung Railway Station, with the names of the workers who perished carved on a granite wall.

The railway administration characterized the task of locating the family members of the deceased and surviving workers as “mission impossible.”

The engineering office that was in charge of building the national railway was reorganized several times before becoming the current Eastern Region Engineering Office of the Railway Reconstruction Bureau.

All the personnel associated with the project have retired and the TRA has only been able to obtain the names of the deceased and the dates on which they died.

The TRA also said that it had further information on only three of the deceased workers, whose records were kept by the Veteran Affairs Commission. To find out more about the workers who had participated in the project, the administration began asking those who had worked on the South Link Railway to contact Taitung Railway Station in August.

The celebratory event was proposed by Hsinchu County resident Huang Hsu-kuang (黃旭光), whose father died 17 days after joining the construction team. Huang, who suffers from a severe visual impairment, said his father would commute back and forth to treat his condition. While he hoped to remember his father through the event, he also said that the sacrifices made by the unsung heroes who built such a challenging project should not be forgotten by the public either.

As souvenirs for visitors, the TRA said it would publish 3,000 sets of memorial platform tickets for the railway stations along the South Link Railway, which will go on sale on Friday.