Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) yesterday called on Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) Director-General Chang Chen-yuan (張政源) to provide an explanation after the TRA was criticized for spending NT$8.84 million (US$310,644) on publications allegedly extolling his personal achievements.
The agency on Wednesday published a set of four Chinese-language books titled Train for Change (一張通往改變的車票), which expand on the agency’s reforms over the past two years.
However, some local media reported that the books might be aimed at touting Chang’s achievements before his retirement next week.
Chang in November 2018 took over after former TRA director-general Jason Lu (鹿潔身) resigned over the Puyuma Express train derailment on Oct. 21 that year, in which 18 people were killed and 291 injured.
The agency’s past publications only cost hundreds of thousands of New Taiwan dollars, so it is curious that the latest publication cost millions, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hung Mong-kai (洪孟楷) said on Friday, asking whether the books contain advertisements or other propaganda.
The public would not trust the agency if it focuses more on marketing itself than improving railway safety, New Power Party Legislator Chiu Hsien-chih (邱顯智) said.
Publications on the TRA’s developments are conducive to research, reform and tourism related to railways, Lin said yesterday.
However, given that the books in question are for sale, the revenue should go to the TRA, but the agency should explain whether the books’ value is worth the cost, he said.
Separately, Chang denied accusations that the books only tout his performance.
Rather, they document the 16,000 TRA employees’ efforts at improving railway operations, and include interviews with more than 100 staff, he said.
The TRA last year decided to publish the books in the hope of improving communication with the public, he said.
Chang said that the four books revolve around four themes — railway reforms, economics, aesthetics, and the past and future of the nation’s century-old railway culture.
They are not just government propaganda, but are aimed at being interesting reads, he added.
Chang said that the publishing cost was reasonable.
There are 12,000 copies of the books, with each to be sold at NT$500, so the agency expects to receive returns totalling NT$5 million, he said.
Commonwealth Publishing Co beat two other firms to win the bid in August last year, the TRA said.
Of the NT$8.84 million, NT$7.13 million was spent on book planning, design and printing, as well as editing, interviewing, photography and image authorization, it said.
The agency also planned three book launches that cost NT$910,000 in total and other marketing activities that cost NT$800,000, it said.
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