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No fail-safe solution to high-speed railroad glitches: operator
Central News Agency
2014-05-12 11:19 PM
Taipei, May 12 (CNA) The chairman of Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. (THSRC) admitted Monday that there was no way to fundamentally resolve the glitches in the system's point machines that have disrupted the rail line's services since the beginning of the year. The company can only take piecemeal measures, Fan Chih-chiang said in answering questions from lawmakers at a hearing of the Legislature's Transportation Committee on the frequent switch signal failures plaguing Taiwan's only high-speed rail line. Governmental statistics show that since the high-speed rail line began operating commercially in January 2007, there had been 202 "abnormal incidents" reported on the line, 60 of which were blamed on glitches in the point machines. The point machines, also known as switch machines or switch motors, control track switches or "turnouts" that allow trains to change tracks. They are often found near train stations for greater maneuverability. At the hearing, Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih attributed the malfunctions to the short distance between some of the stations on the north-south rail line and the relatively high speeds of 130-160 kilometers per hour at which trains pass through stations. The intervals between stations along Taiwan's high-speed line are similar to those seen in Japan, but in Japan bullet trains travel through stations at only 80 kilometers per hour, Yeh said. The higher speeds require longer sections of track to switch from one side to another, which require more point machines, increasing the potential for problems. Taiwan's high-speed rail system uses switch machines from Germany instead of Japan because the greater distances between high-speed rail stations in Germany makes it possible for trains to pass through stations at higher speeds, more closely approximating Taiwan's situation, Yeh said. But even the German switch machines have had trouble withstanding not only the high speeds at which Taiwanese trains pass through stations but the greater concentration of turnouts along the country's high-speed rail line. Fan, who did not take over the chairmanship until March, said the problem of the high switch machine usage has existed since the launch of the high-speed rail line. He said the problem can only be dealt with using piecemeal measures aimed at reinforcing the line's turnouts, because replacing all of the point machines would be a huge challenge. There are a total of 706 point machines and 146 turnouts on the rail line, and it would require the high-speed rail line to be shut down for at least a year to change them, Fan said. He said, however, that the German company supplying the switch machines has dispatched its technicians to Taiwan, who will try to help the company come up with solutions for the problem. (By Wang Shu-fen and Elizabeth Hsu)
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