Train chief apologizes for chaos
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-03-01 03:01 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Transportation Vice Minister and Taiwan Railways Administration Director General Fan Chih-ku apologized Saturday for the pulling down of an electric cable by a train which caused almost 24 hours of chaos at the start of a three-day weekend.

A Taroko-class train hit an overhead electric cable between Chungli and Puhsin in Taoyuan County Friday at 8:37 a.m. As a result, only half of a four-kilometer stretch of the main west coast railway line had to be used by both northbound and southbound trains.

Despite earlier promises that the problem would be solved by Friday evening or by 5:30 Saturday morning, it took until 8:19 a.m. Saturday before normal traffic resumed on the segment between Chungli and Yangmei.

More than 61,000 passengers on dozens of trains were stuck on the vehicles or in stations at a time when road traffic also faced massive jams because of the holiday and the nice weather.

At a news conference Saturday morning, Fan made a 90-degree bow to apologize to the public and promised he would take responsibility for the mishap. He also said that compensation would be generous, though details would have to wait for another two days or so.

Fan blamed the long repair time on the fact that the cables had not been replaced for 30 years because of financial problems. A total of 1,500 meters of cable had to be completely replaced, he said, making the restoration of normal service a much more difficult task than originally anticipated.

The daily amount of passengers had risen from 600,000 last year to 880,000 during the recent Lunar New Year holiday, but that was bad news as well as good news, Fan said. The trend brought the company more revenue, but it also led to more wear and tear on the lines and to a more rapid need for the replacement of equipment.

A program for the complete replacement of cables on the west coast lines had been introduced, but for the time being it would still be necessary to make preventive repairs, Fan said.

The rail chief said further investigations would determine whether technical departments bore any responsibility for the incident. Experts from the high speed rail and mass rapid transit companies as well as overseas specialists would be invited to give their opinions about the rail system’s problems, Fan said.

The rail chaos on the holiday came only days after Premier Jiang Yi-huah claimed he would make people happier by introducing more days off. Even though more train problems were unlikely to happen, the second day of the long weekend was marked by more traffic jams near urban centers and amusement parks, reports said.

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