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High speed rail's Yunlin link project called off

2011/03/06 21:30:56

Taipei, March 6 (CNA) A road project serving the Taiwan HighSpeed Rail's Huwei Station in Yunlin County has been called offbecause of safety concerns, according to the Directorate General ofHighways under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.

Three roads linking the high-speed rail station with surroundingareas had been designed and preparations had been made to breakground, but a recent report on land subsidence caught the attentionof the planners.

The Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. (THSRC) commissioned theIndustrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) to monitor geologicalchanges along the railway between Changhua and Kaohsiung.

Its latest report shows that in 2010, Huwei Station -- a newstation -- and its vicinity had sunk 5.7 cm, compared with 4.8 cm theprevious year.

Subsidence in other places in Yunlin County ranged from 5.7 cm to6.8 cm along provincial highway No. 78 and county highway No. 158,according to the report.

The safety concerns prompted the Directorate General of Highwaysto suspend the building of the three roads and the funding has beenreturned to the THSRC.

Although the differential settlement along provincial highway No.78 -- 1.19/1,500 -- was within the legal limit of 4.5/1,500, thedirectorate general said it will keep reminding the THSRC of thedanger.

THSRC said it will not wait until the differential settlementreaches a dangerous level but will start to strengthen the railwaybase as soon as the figure reaches 2-3/1,500, to ensure safety.

However, some academics have said this so-called safety valuedoes not ensure safety, as a recent landslide on the No. 3 Freewayshows.

Textbook theory says a massive landslide will occur only when alayer of land slides more than 25 degrees. But the freeway landslidetook place on a sunny day when the geological layer slid only 16degrees, said Chen Hung-yu, a professor at National TaiwanUniversity.

He also cited the case of the Vaiont Dam in Italy. The dam, builtin 1960, was thought to be safe, even though slopes behind it werefound to be moving a bit. On a clear evening in 1963, massivelandslides caused the dam to overflow and flood nearby towns, killingmore than 2,500 people.

"This is proof that the existing scientific theory is alwaysbeing challenged," Chen said.

He said the land subsidence in Yunlin is not a geological issuebut a result of the over-pumping of underground water, a problem thathas not been resolved, and the MOTC's Bureau of High Speed Railadmitted that over-pumping of underground water is the main cause forthe subsidence in the area.

Not enough wells have been sealed for fear of affecting localfarmers and industry, so the problem will continue, according to thebureau.

(By Wang Shu-fen and S.C. Chang)