Rail agency to sue Japanese firm for Puyuma derailment

Staff writer, with CNA

Mon, Oct 21, 2019 - Page 2

The Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) said that it plans to sue the Japanese company that sold it a train that derailed a year ago today, leaving 18 passengers dead and more than 200 injured.

Puyuma Express No. 6432 derailed on Oct. 21 last year in Yilan County while traveling to Taitung from New Taipei City.

Before the end of the month, the TRA plans to seek compensation from Sumitomo Corp, the Japanese company that won the bid to supply the Puyuma trains in 2011, TRA deputy director-general Feng Sheng-hui (馮昇輝) said yesterday.

Feng did not specify the amount it would seek in compensation, saying only that a law firm has been hired to file the suit, and a third party has requested to serve as a technical witness.

The agency is currently withholding a NT$430 million (US$14.05 million) security deposit from Sumitomo.

A report from the Executive Yuan released in November last year acknowledged mismanagement on the TRA’s part, but concluded that the accident was caused by design flaws in the Puyuma train. The report pointed to the air compressor system, which it said directly contributed to the crash after Sumitomo failed to fix it, despite being notified of the issue.

Although the train was speeding while negotiating a curve when it derailed, its air compressor malfunctioned and failed to tilt the train, the report showed.

It also said that Sumitomo failed to put TRA’s remote monitoring system online, making it impossible to detect that the train’s automatic train protection system had been deactivated by the driver.

In April, TRA lawyers sent a letter to the Japanese company seeking damages.

However, Sumitomo said that the agency was responsible for related maintenance problems.

The TRA purchased 19 Puyuma trains from Sumitomo, with a total of 152 carriages. The trains were delivered in batches beginning in October 2012 and went into operation four months later.