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Former TRA heads given heavier penalties for deadly train crash

2019/07/15 21:46

CNA file photo

Taipei, July 15 (CNA) Three former directors-general of the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) have been given heavier administrative punishments than they received last December in the wake of a fatal train crash.

According to a final report released by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) on Monday, Lu Chieh-shen (鹿潔身), who was in charge of the TRA when a Puyuma train derailed and killed 18 passengers in October 2018, will be given a major demerit and a demerit, instead of only a major demerit.

Lu ignored the longstanding problems with the Puyuma trains' air compressors that played a major role in the crash, the report said.

It was because of malfunctioning air compressors that the driver of the ill-fated train, You Chen-chung (尤振仲), turned off the automatic train protection (ATP) system, which when on prevents trains from speeding.

The train eventually derailed when traveling at a speed of about 140 kilometers per hour -- double the speed limit -- when it entered a curve near a train station in northeastern Taiwan.

That led to an investigation into the incident by a government committee, resulting in recommendations of administrative punishments for railway officials in December 2018.

But new Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), who took office in January 2019, ordered the MOTC to revisit the case because he felt the punishments were too light, resulting in Monday's report that recommended harsher penalties for Lin to approve.

Another of the officials who will also face harsher penalties is Lu's predecessor Chou Yung-hui (周永暉), who served as TRA head between 2014 and 2016 and is now director-general of the Tourism Bureau. He was given two demerits instead of one.

Chou failed to implement strict inspections of train operations and continued to leave the ATP unconnected with the central control room, which meant the TRA could not be immediately informed when the ATP was deactivated, the report said.

Frank Fan (范植谷), the longest serving TRA head and now retired, turned out to be the one who should receive the heaviest penalty -- one major demerit and two demerits, instead of one demerit.

It was during his tenure from 2007 to 2014 that the TRA purchased and took delivery of the Puyuma trains from Japan, and Fan was negligent in the purchasing of the trains and their testing and operations, including overlooking the ATP problems, the report said.

The punishments for active officials will affect their performance evaluation and promotion opportunities, while retirees could see their pensions reduced, the MOTC has said, though it refused to elaborate.

Puyuma train No. 6432 from New Taipei to Taitung derailed Oct. 21 in Yilan County, leaving 18 passengers dead and some 200 injured.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)Enditem/ls