Despite malfunction, Taichung MRT official launch still on track
Taipei, Nov. 22 (CNA) Trial runs of the first line of the Taichung mass rapid transit (MRT) system have been suspended after a major malfunction occurred on Saturday, but city officials said Sunday the line's formal launch on Dec. 19 remains unchanged for now.
Yeh Chao-fu (葉昭甫), director-general of the city's Transportation Bureau, said the purpose of a trial run was in fact to uncover problems with the MRT system and get passenger feedback, and make corresponding improvements.
"As long as we are sure there are no safety concerns, we will resume the trial runs," Yeh said, adding that the city will also require the manufacturer to present a safety certificate before service can be restarted.
Yeh suggested that the process would yield a solution to the problem and that there was no need at this time to change the formal December launch date.
He noted that pressure existed to start official operations on schedule because of the anticipation of Taichung residents but insisted that "we will not jump the gun on the launch unless we can be sure the system is safe."
As of early Sunday afternoon, there was still no indication when trial runs of the Taichung MRT's Green Line would resume.
Service was initially suspended for 1.5 hours early Saturday afternoon after one of the MRT's trains reported an abnormality around noon at the terminal of the Taichung High Speed Rail Station.
Taichung Mass Rapid Transit Corp. (TMRTC) looked into the problem before announcing later Saturday that it would suspend all trial runs until the problem was fixed.
According to the trains' manufacturer, Kawasaki Heavy Industries of Japan, the breakdown involved a U.S.-made coupling connecting the two-carriage train that broke, something Kawasaki said had "never happened before."
The manufacturer is also checking the other 17 trains to see if similar problems exist, TMRTC said.
The 16.71-kilometer Green Line, which began a trial run on Nov. 16, had carried some 485,000 passengers as of Saturday, it said.
The route extends from Beitun Main Station in the northeast to Taichung High Speed Rail Station in the southwest and serves 18 stations.
The line is expected to improve the integration of Taichung's major transportation hubs, as it offers connections to the Songzhu and Daqing railway stations, the city's high speed rail station, and a major road intersection at Taichung City Hall, the company said.
It has been built at a cost of NT$59.3 billion (US$2.06 billion), with the central government covering NT$32.8 billion of the total.
TMRTC plans to build three more MRT lines in the city under a wider plan to improve Taichung's public transportation system.
A feasibility study is being conducted for an east-west Blue Line that will intersect with the Green Line, connecting Taichung Port and the Taichung Railway Station, according to TMRTC.
The plan to build an MRT system in the city was initiated in 2004, and construction began in 2009 during the tenure of then Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強), who was succeeded by incumbent Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) in 2014.
He was followed by incumbent Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕), who defeated Lin in the most recent mayoral elections in November 2018.
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