Minister calls for TRA reform group

BAD INVESTMENT::The railway union blasted the TRA’s purchase of vests reading ‘I love the TRA,’ saying that it has money to buy vests, but not pay overtime

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Jan 31, 2019 - Page 3

A Cabinet-level task force to reform the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) should be created following a comprehensive evaluation of the agency, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said yesterday during an inspection of a TRA depot in New Taipei City’s Shulin District (樹林).

“The public depends heavily on TRA services. Accidents that happen inevitably affect the agency’s morale, and therefore we should identify the root problems and try to make improvements. I will support you and I will ask the Executive Yuan to establish a task force to reform the agency,” Lin told TRA employees at the depot, which is the departure point for trains used on east coast routes.

Lin also addressed the agency’s decision to have employees wear red vests reading “I love the TRA” and “Safety first” during the Lunar New Year holiday, after the Taiwan Railway Union criticized the plan at a news conference yesterday morning.

The agency “has the money to produce red vests ... but apparently not the funds to pay overtime to about 1,000 of its workers” during the holiday, the union said.

The red vests, which cost about NT$14,000 to produce, would show its determination to improve and better serve passengers, the agency said.

Lin said that while he understood the agency’s rationale, reform does not happen by “simply wearing a vest.”

The TRA needs to tackle more important matters, including improving its financial situation, adjusting salary scales and enhancing train availability, he said.

Lin said that he was also willing to meet with representatives of two workers’ unions representing TRA employees, adding that he does not mind spending long hours discussing how to improve the agency’s operations with them.

Asked if the ministry was prepared to handle the increase in travelers during the holiday, Lin said that Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport would face a huge burden this year due to an increase in flights and passengers using the airport.

However, asked if he was confident that people would be able to drive from Taipei to Kaohsiung, or vice versa, within six hours on freeways, Lin avoided giving a definitive answer, saying that the ministry plans to avoid serious congestion on freeways over the period.

Drivers are also encouraged to monitor traffic reports online and plan for the best time to depart, he said.

Although the Ministry of Labor has said that bus drivers would be allowed to work 10 days in a row before getting a one-day break, the Directorate-General of Highways said that all 49 highway bus operators under its supervision were willing to respond to Lin’s call for passenger safety and allow drivers to work seven consecutive days before giving them a one-day break.