Trains across the nation sounded their horns simultaneously yesterday morning to pay tribute to two train drivers killed in last week’s Taroko Express crash, while the Executive Yuan vowed to speed up reform of the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA).
More than 120 TRA trains sounded their horns at 9:28am yesterday — the time when Taroko Express No. 408 hit a crane truck as it was about to enter the Cingshuei Tunnel (清水隧道) in Hualien’s Sioulin Township (秀林) — to mourn the deaths of driver Yuan Chun-hsiu (袁淳修) and assistant driver Chiang Pei-feng (江沛峰).
Yesterday marked the seventh day of the crash, which in Taoist tradition is when the deceased return home. Fifty people were killed in the crash and more than 200 were injured.
Photo: Wang Chun-chi, Taipei Times
TRA staff were seen wearing yellow ribbons and trains sounded their horns as they arrived at 9:28am at New Taipei City’s Shulin Railway Station, from which the Taroko Express train had departed that ill-fated day.
The Hualien District Prosecutors’ Office said it has detained a Vietnamese worker, identified as A-hao (阿好), who was present at the scene of the crash alongside the driver of the crane truck, Lee Yi-hsiang (李義祥).
The Hualien District Court approved the office’s request to detain the foreign worker over his alleged involvement in the negligent homicide, court spokesman Huang Hung-ta (黃鴻達) said.
Photo: Chiu Shu-yu, Taipei Times
At the Executive Yuan in Taipei, Premier Su Tseng-chung (蘇貞昌) led the Cabinet in observing a minute’s silence, and vowed to step up reform of the railway agency.
Responsibility for the crash lies with the TRA and the government, and he, speaking on behalf of the government, expressed his deep regrets over the deceased and to the wounded and their families, Su said.
He also reiterated the three directives President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) gave on Wednesday to reform the railway agency.
The government has implemented 109 of the 144 safety improvements proposed by the Cabinet’s Puyuma Express committee in the aftermath of that fatal train derailment in 2018, he said.
While the Executive Yuan applauds the dedication and professionalism of the vast majority of TRA employees, they must understand that reforms are inevitable, Su said.
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the Ministry of Justice should thoroughly investigate the crash and hold those responsible to the highest standards of accountability, he said.
The TRA must carry out a safety review of its processes for work site management and awarding contracts, he said.
It should work on installing smart security surveillance systems to detect track intrusions that could endanger safety and issue automated alerts to trains, he said, adding that the government would “spare no expense” in making this capability a reality.
The transportation ministry must take transport justice into consideration when proposing reforms, as the TRA is responsible for providing transportation in underserviced areas, Su said.
The Executive Yuan had approved the transformation of the TRA’s Hualien-Taitung Line into an electric double-track railroad with a proposed budget of NT$46 billion (US$1.62 billion), but the project would be revised to expand its scope and to deliver it at an earlier date, he said.
Moreover, the government is exploring plans to broaden and upgrade the safety design of the Suao-Hualien and Hualien-Taitung Valley sections of Provincial Highway No. 9, with a tentative proposed budget of NT$14 billion, he said.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare, which has set up an account to accept public donations for the tragedy, should ensure that ethical and transparency rules are followed in the handling of public funds, he said.
Pursuant to a Legislative Yuan resolution, Yuan and Chiang are to be enshrined with the war dead in the National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine, he said.
“TRA employees welcome reform and are not afraid of it,” TRA Train Drivers’ Association president Huang Lung-hua (黃隆華) said in Hualien, when he and other members mourned the deaths of the two drivers.
The railway agency’s chronic issues are a matter of public record and employees are well aware that reforms are urgently needed, he said, adding that it must improve pay and working conditions.
Additional reporting by Chiu Su-yu
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