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Safety checks show no safety defects on Puyuma trains: TRA

2018/10/28 19:46:56

CNA file photo

Taipei, Oct. 28 (CNA) All 18 Puyuma express trains have been extensively tested in the wake of the deadly derailment on Oct. 21 and no defect has been found that impacts the safety of the service, Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) said Sunday.

Every train has undergone testing for faults in its running gear, transmission devices, pantograph apparatus, power systems, protection systems, connectors, high-voltage insulators, extinguishers and auxiliary parts, to ensure their structural and operational integrity, TRA said in a text message, without providing further details.

The findings will be presented to the task force established by the Executive Yuan to investigate the derailment of Puyuma express No. 6432 in Yilan on Oct. 21 that left 18 people dead and 210 injured, TRA said.

However, fresh questions have been raised about the safety of Puyuma express trains, the fastest model operated by TRA, following the accident -- the deadliest in nearly three decades -- in the wake of numerous reports about mechanical glitches the trains have experienced in the past.

According to a report in the Chinese-language Apple Daily Sunday, there were 35 reported problems with the train system from Oct. 22-26, 10 of which were related to the speed control mechanism, also called the automatic train protection (ATP) system.

Of 10 incidents, three happened to three Puyuma express trains that were in service on Oct. 24, Oct. 25, and Oct. 26, the newspaper said, citing anonymous sources at TRA.

An investigation into the causes of the accident is still ongoing and it has yet to be definitely determined why the ATP on Puyuma No. 6432 was deactivated at the time of its derailment and why the situation was not known to the control center, as TRA claimed.

It has been found that the ATP on the train was turned off earlier in its journey because the train experienced power problems so the driver could manually accelerate the train.

TRA alleges the driver turned off the ATP without informing the operations control center in advance, which contradicts the driver's statement to Yilan prosecutors that he received approval from the dispatcher before disabling the system.

As to why TRA's control center was not able to monitor the speed of Puyuma No. 6432, which was traveling at twice the speed limit when it derailed, the TRA has said the Puyuma-class train is not equipped with a system that enables distant monitoring of speed.

That statement has been disputed by New Power Party Legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) who said TRA has installed a remote monitoring system on Puyuma trains, but the switch for ATP control was not connected to the control center via a wireless system. Asked about the claim, TRA spokesperson Tu Wei (杜微) declined to comment.

In light of the fact that Puyuma trains frequently encounter mechanical problems, the TRA should consider suspending its service until the cause of the derailment is determined, Consumers' Foundation Chairman Yu Kai-hsiung (游開雄) said Sunday.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) vowed on Sunday that the government will carry out drastic reform of the TRA to restore public confidence in the safety of railway transportation.

The TRA must conduct a thorough review to clarify what led to the derailment, identify underlying systematic faults in its day-to-day operations, and solve those problems, because only then can the safety of passengers be guaranteed, Tsai said.

Tsai made the remarks while presiding over a ceremony to mark the opening of the second phase of the elevated Taichung railway system.

(By Chen Wei-ting, Wu Hsin-yun, Su Mu-chun and Shih Hsiu-chuan)