TRA touts ‘new’ emergency hotline amid multiple rail safety incidents

The Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) on Friday held a press conference to publicize a toll-free hotline it introduced last month, urging members of the public who spot track intrusions or safety related issues to report them immediately, in the wake of two major railway safety incidents in 24 hours.

The "1933" hotline allows members of the public to report if they see objects that should not be on the railway tracks, said TRA Director-General Tu Wei (??).

The TRA currently runs a similar toll-free line, 0800-800-333, but there have been complaints the number is too difficult to remember, Tu added.

TRA officials said both lines will continue to operate, adding that they will be available 24/7 and put callers directly through to TRA staff responsible for train safety.

On Dec. 1, a steel pile being used on a TRA construction site fell and hit a Taroko Express train in northeastern Taiwan, in an accident that was eerily similar to one in April that left 49 people dead and more than 200 injured.

Although the accident on Wednesday did not result in any injuries, it once again involved poor government oversight of contractors, a construction site seemingly too close to the railway tracks on the TRA's Eastern Line, and questions about the quality of work being performed.

The incident occurred at 8:52 a.m., when a section of a steel pile that was hoisted in the air above the northbound track between Dali and Fulong stations somehow broke off and fell onto the window of the locomotive of train No. 207 as it was passing the construction site, according to the TRA.

Later in the day, a northbound Fu-hsing train was hit by a steel panel at a construction site near Hualien, eastern Taiwan that broke off from a track side fence as a result of the force generated by a passing train, causing the detachment of two carriages. No one was injured.

The coupling between cars No. 3 and No. 4 of train No. 611 was hit as it traveled at 80 kilometers per hour, and the carriages ended up 500 meters apart when the train stopped, local media reported.

The construction site was officially being overseen by the Railway Bureau as it is part of a track improvement project, according to the TRA, adding that the Taiwan Transportation Safety Board (TTSB) is investigating both cases.

The two cases were a shocking reminder of the government's poor oversight of railway safety that led to the Taroko Express accident in Hualien earlier this year.

In that case, the No. 408 Taroko Express hit a crane truck that had fallen from a construction site onto the tracks as the train approached Qingshui Tunnel, causing it to crash into the wall of the tunnel.

However, at about the same time when the "new" hotline was introduced on Friday, there was another railway safety incident in eastern Taiwan involving a TRA Puyuma Express train.

Northbound train No. 406 lost power near Hualien due to the failure of a track sensor, the TRA said.

No one was injured, but the train was delayed for 46 minutes, it added.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel