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Driver shut off train auto protection, was going too fast: court

2018/10/23 17:55:28

Taipei, Oct. 23 (CNA) The driver of the Puyuma express train that derailed on Oct. 21 had turned off the automatic train protection (ATP) system, which is the main reason why the train took a curve too fast and crashed, the Yilan District Court said in press release Tuesday.

The driver, Yu Chen-chung (尤振仲), told prosecutors that he had shut off the system near Daxi Station, which was not one of the stops on the express route, and was operating the train manually because he was having problems accelerating, according to the court.

On Monday night, the Yilan District court denied a motion filed by prosecutors to detain Yu, and he was released Tuesday on bail of NT$500,000 (US$16,141).

In its statement after the detention hearing, the court said Yu told prosecutors that the speedometer on the dashboard was not showing the actual speed of the train, which was traveling from New Taipei to Taitung, and that he had to operate it based on his own experience.

When the train derailed at 4:50 p.m. Sunday, it was traveling at roughly 82 kilometers per hour, which was within the speed limit on the curve, the driver said, adding that his training included estimating train speeds, according to the court.

Prosecutors have determined, however, that at 4:46 p.m., the train was traveling at 120 kph, and between 4:47 p.m. and 4:48 p.m. it had picked up to 140 kph, the court said.

It said Yu should have been aware of the speed and should have taken precautions, particularly as he had turned off the ATP, which indicated possible professional negligence.

In addition, Yu did not follow standard operating procedure, which stipulates that whenever the ATP is turned off, it must be turned on again at the next stop, the court said in its statement.

After the ATP was deactivated, the Puyuma train stopped at Yilan and Luodong stations but Yu did not turn on the system again because he was in constant communication with train dispatchers, the court said, citing the driver's statement to prosecutors.

The crash occurred after the train left Luodong Station and was near Xinma Station, which was not a stop on its route.

According to the Chinese-language news site The Reporter, Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) had received two alerts on its internal bulletin, at 3:57 p.m. and 4:34 p.m., that there had been power cuts on the train even before it reached Yilan Station, the stop before Luodong.

The alerts indicated that the train would be delayed as it would require checks at Yilan and Hualien Stations, according to the news site.

On Monday, TRA said the train was checked at Yilan Station and that there were no more reports of power problems after that.

Asked about the report on the news site, TRA on Tuesday declined to comment, saying that the case was under investigation.

Also on Tuesday, Minister without Portfolio Wu Tze-cheng (吳澤成), who is heading a task force to investigate the accident, said an initial report will be available within a week.

The Puyuma train derailment left 18 people dead and 190 injured and was the deadliest train accident in Taiwan in 37 years.

(By Yu Hsiao-han, Worthy Shen and Lee Hsin-Yin)