With the Taiwan Railways Administration’s (TRA) new Puyuma trains entering the testing phase, the TRA has removed sections of train platforms at five stations, prompting questions about the design of the train.
The Puyuma is a tilted train that was purchased from Japan in 2010. The TRA has spent more than NT$10 billion (US$341 million) to purchase 136 cars, which are to be delivered between this year and 2014. If the train passes the trial run, it could start operating by Lunar New Year (February).
The first Puyuma train was transported to Taiwan on Oct. 25. On its first day on the tracks, it got caught between the platforms as it arrived at Keelung Station, scratching and denting the cars.
An investigation revealed that the TRA’s maintenance branch had miscalculated the diameter of the track’s curve when laying down the tracks, causing the protective screen over the train’s controller panel to scrape along the edge of the Keelung station platform.
The TRA had to remove the edges of the platform to free the train, and the train was left with an 80cm scratch on the protective screen.
Four officials in the maintenance office were given demerits or transferred to another office.
The train started its test run at the beginning of the month on the west coast, and started its trial run on the east coast last week. However, doubts about the Puyuma’s design emerged again after media reports that multiple stations had to have their platforms altered to allow the Puyuma’s passage.
One TRA official, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the Puyuma was undoubtedly the “widest” train the TRA had run, adding that the train’s underside was unusually straight.
The Keelung platform incident occurred because the side skirts of the train was not indented enough, the official said, adding that even though other platforms the Puyuma had later passed through were higher and there had not been a repeat of the Keelung accident, there were also potential problems on the train’s top side.
An TRA official confirmed that due to the Puyuma’s test drive on the east coast rail, parts of the platforms at Nuannuan Township (暖暖), Mudan Township (牡丹), Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市) and Heren Township (和仁) had been removed, while the Changhua station platform removed only the steps that were usually reserved for the station staff.
TRA mechanics division deputy chief Liu Tsan-huang (柳燦煌) said that there was no problem with the design of the train.
Liu said the width of a train may not exceed 3m, and when clear, the space from the center of the tracks to the platform edge must be 155.5cm, which means that even if the car of a train was 3m wide, there would be 5.5cm of space on either side.
Normal trains are between 280cm and 290cm wide, and the TRA had specified that the Puyuma should be 290cm wide, Liu said, adding that while it was the widest of all current cars, it was still within the margin of safety.
TRA maintenance division deputy chief Wen Tsai-yen (溫彩炎) also said that had the platform parts not been removed, the Puyuma would probably still have been able to pass.
Wen said that to err on the side of caution, the TRA was strictly maintaining a 310cm space when the tracks are clear, adding that the platforms in the smaller stations all had to be made higher before the end of the year in any case.
However, railway expert Hung Chih-wen (洪致文) said that the TRA’s original purpose in specifying a greater width for the Puyuma was to decrease the space between the train and the platform.
However, the TRA’s handling of the matter was contradictory and showed a lack of planning, Hung said.
Additional reporting by Yu Chao-fu and Tang Shih-ming