20 former, current TRA officials punished in wake of Puyuma crash

Taipei, A total of 20 former and current officials of the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) were given administrative punishments Friday in the wake of a deadly Puyuma express train crash in October, with four of them receiving a major demerit.

Evaluation committees from both the TRA and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) decided that former TRA Director-General Lu Chieh-shen who was in charge when the accident took place and resigned Oct. 25, should be given a major demerit.

TRA Deputy Director-General Ho Hsien-lin was also given a major demerit and will be transferred to another post, according to the committees.

Lai Hsing-lung head of the TRA's Rolling Stock Department, and his subordinate, Hsu Yu-tsun head of the Qidu Rolling Stock Division, were both also given a major demerit.

Another current 14 TRA officials were given punishments ranging from demerits to admonitions, while former TRA heads Chou Yung-hui and Frank Fan both received a demerit.

Chou is currently director-general of the Tourism Bureau, while Fan has retired.

Fan, Chou and Lu, who served as TRA heads from 2007-2014, 2014-2016 and 2016-2018, respectively, all failed to establish a safety code for Puyuma trains, known for their tilting feature that enables them to travel at higher speeds on the winding railroad in eastern Taiwan, the MOTC said.

"We think the three former TRA heads must take responsibility for failing to establish a safety-first culture, particularly after a similar accident in 2007," MOTC Acting Minister Wang Kwo-tsai said, referring to a train collision at Dali Station in Yilan County that left five people dead and 15 injured.

As with the Puyuma crash, the Dali incident was the result of speeding because the driver of the electric locomotive shut off an ATP system after experiencing power problems on the train.

Deactivation of the ATP on the speeding train was not monitored by the central control room, and the train eventually crashed into a southbound train leaving the station.

After the Dali crash, the TRA established a remote control system on all its trains that alerts the central control room if the ATP is switched off -- except on the Puyuma expresses, which went into service in 2013.

The punishments for the current officials will affect their performance evaluation and promotion opportunities, while retirees will have their pensions garnished, the MOTC said, declining to give further details.

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

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel