The Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) legislative caucus yesterday urged a temporary halt to all construction along railway lines nationwide and for the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) to carry out substantial reform.
The call came after Taroko Express No. 408 collided with a crane truck, which slid down a hill onto the tracks, as it was entering the Cingshuei Tunnel (清水隧道) in Hualien County’s Sioulin Township (秀林) on Friday last week, killing 50 people and injuring 200.
Lee Yi-hsiang (李義祥), the driver of the crane truck and supervisor of the construction site next to the railway line, was detained on Monday.
TPP caucus convener Andy Chiu (邱臣遠) said that several train accidents have occurred in the past few years, including the major derailment of a Puyuma Express train in Yilan County in 2018, which caused 18 deaths.
After the Puyuma derailment, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) pledged “there would be no limit to the TRA’s reform,” and that personnel training, error-proofing mechanisms and hardware must be improved to ensure safe operations, but none of these promises have been fulfilled, Chiu said.
The TPP is to establish a TRA reform supervision task force and invite specialists to advise on the issues facing the company, he said.
Last week’s accident highlighted five areas in which the TRA must improve, including allowing construction projects to be contracted and subcontracted without effective project management, and allowing people and vehicles to enter construction sites that were supposed to be closed over the long weekend, Chiu said.
Other errors included not erecting barriers at the construction site above the railway line, projects not undergoing external review to avoid safety blind spots, and not knowing that it was illegal for Lee to be both the owner of the contracted company and site supervisor, he said.
The TPP urges the TRA to halt all construction projects alongside railway lines pending a thorough safety review, set up intrusion detection and disaster warning systems on railway lines within two years, and to implement a transportation safety management system, he added.
Meanwhile, lawmakers yesterday passed a TPP resolution requiring the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to present a plan for the improved supervision of the TRA within one month.
The resolution also stipulates that contractors with poor records are to be excluded from bidding for TRA projects, including those that change their name after a failed bid.
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