Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) would not permanently ban people from sitting on the floor in the main hall of the Taipei Railway Station, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said yesterday, adding that the hall would remain closed to public gatherings until the end of July.
The issue of whether people would be allowed to sit on the floor of the station’s main hall when the COVID-19 pandemic eases became the focus of discussion at a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Transportation Committee in Taipei yesterday after some opponents of the ban threatened to protest at the station on Saturday.
Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) on Tuesday said that he hopes the TRA will soon find a solution satisfactory to all parties.
KMT Legislator Hung Mong-kai (洪孟楷) said that the main hall is a public space that belongs to everyone, and that the TRA cannot make unilateral decisions about it.
The TRA needs to hear from all people, including migrant workers, on how the main hall should be used, Hung added.
The TRA has the right to set rules regarding unacceptable behavior, such as banning people from lying on the floor, but it should not prohibit people from sitting on the floor if they are not blocking pedestrian traffic inside the station, Hung said.
Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said that the TRA would reopen the main hall after the pandemic is under control, but that there would be rules regarding use of the space.
Hung asked again if this meant that there would not be a permanent ban and Wang said: “Yes.”
About the protest on Saturday, Wang said that any public gathering at the main hall is prohibited until July 30, Wang said, adding that protestors could face fines of NT$3,000 to NT$15,000 under the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法) if they break that rule.
A review by the Central Epidemic Command Center on Tuesday of the ministry’s plan to ease restrictions on public transport decided that the TRA and Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp can only sell a limited number of tickets for non-reserved seats and standing room only for the Dragon-Boat Festival holiday next month.
The ministry last week said that restrictions would be eased in three stages.
The first stage, from Wednesday next week to July 31, would allow people to eat on TRA and high-speed rail trains if no one is sitting next to them or they can maintain social distancing, but they must wear a mask at all other times.
The second stage, from Aug. 1 to Oct. 31, would lift all food and beverage restrictions on TRA and high-speed rail trains. The operators could sell food to passengers and assign seats without distancing measures and all public places managed by the ministry — including the Taipei Railway Station, lighthouses and the Postal Museum — would be reopened to the public.
Stage three, starting on Oct. 1, would reopen Taiwan’s borders to international travelers, including cross-strait flights and traveling through the “small three links” in Kinmen and Lienchiang counties.
“The Central Epidemic Command Center generally agreed with the measures scheduled to take place in the first stage, but said that the number of tickets for non-reserved seats and standing room only must be regulated to control the number of people per train cabin,” Wang said.
The timeline of the stages could be revised as it is uncertain when the pandemic would ease, he added.
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