A nonprofit organization dedicated to the nation’s railway development on Saturday urged the government to clearly state its plans to reform the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA).
The Cabinet has signaled its intention to reform the 73-year-old TRA following the derailment of Taroko Express No. 408 on April 2, which killed 49 people, but its vision for the agency has been vague, the Society of Railway and National Planning said in a statement.
The TRA has over the past 20 years boasted of the ways it would expand services, but that has only meant that it essentially operates as a different entity from the one it intends to be, the group said.
Photo: Wang Chun-chi, Taipei Times
It pointed to a TRA project to transform part of its services into an “urban subway” by building more stations and adding more frequent lines in metropolitan areas, the organization said.
The program has received mostly negative feedback due to the limited potential to upgrade TRA infrastructure, including the lack of trains needed for intensive subway-like operations, it said.
There are also concerns over the management and scheduling of fast, long-distance trains and slower, local trains operating on limited track space, which could result in more delays, it added.
The government must outline which acts and regulations would be amended or created to transform the TRA, the group said.
It must first decide whether a new TRA should be covered by the Company Act (公司法) or the Administrative Act of State-owned Enterprises (國營事業管理法), or continue operating under the Statute of Organization for Taiwan Railroad Administration Bureau, Ministry of Transportation and Communications (交通部臺灣鐵路管理局組織條例), it said.
Only when the rules are identified can there be a sustainable structure under which employment, salaries and other administrative issues can be finalized, it added.
A successful transformation of the TRA depends on consensus between labor and management, the organization said.
The group’s statement follows comments from Executive Yuan spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成), who on Friday said the government favors “enterprization” for the TRA instead of corporatization or privatization.
“What we would like to emphasize on TRA reforms is its ‘enterprization’ and sustainable operations. Use of the more conventional ‘corporatization’ could lead to people misunderstanding it as ‘privatization,’” he said.
Lo did not elaborate on the meaning of the terms as it would apply to the TRA, but said that the government would first adjust the agency’s internal structure to improve safety and fix financial issues before “more business model options can be put on the table.”
The TRA has accrued NT$400 billion (US$14.1 billion) in debt.
Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) has said that the solution to the TRA’s problems lies in corporatization, and various plans have been made to meet that goal.
Meanwhile, the Hualien District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday revised the death toll of April 2’s train crash from 50 to 49 following DNA testing and matching.
All bodies have been identified and death certificates issued, the office said.
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