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MRT station suicide attempt fails

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A 70-year-old man was seriously injured yesterday after he jumped onto the rails at Hanshan Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station as the subway train was coming to a halt.

The man, surnamed Cheng, leapt onto the tracks at the Kunyang-Yongning line at 10:11 a.m., as the train heading toward Taipei Main Station was entering the station.

Surveillance footage4 showed Cheng's wife attempting to hold him back before he was grabbed under the decelerating train in an apparent suicide attempt.

According to Chinese-language media, however, the victim's family denied Cheng attempted suicide that morning and complained about MRT staff, who allegedly "showed no reaction after the incident."

Cheng's wife said she telephoned her son, who immediately arrived at the subway platform to help his father who was pinned under the train, with his left leg severed.

"Look how long it took, [our] son came by himself to save his father ... there are no contingency measures at the MRT station. In the end you have to send your own people for the rescue. This is ridiculous!" shouted the victim's younger brother.

He denied his brother had been depressed after a long illness, stressing that on Sunday night Cheng had a pleasant dinner with his family and sang songs happily.

After the incident, Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC), which supervises MRT operations, closed the track and opened another one for two-way traffic.

The incident caused suspension of MRT services for 38 minutes.

The last major MRT accident occurred in June 2007, when a 48-year-old woman jumped to her death as a train was approaching in Longshan Temple MRT Station.

"There were four major incidents last year at Taipei MRT stations," said Chao Hsiung-fei, TRTC's vice president, noting that three of four of the incidents were suicide attempts.

He explained that in order to increase safety, TRTC installed platform doors on six platforms at Taipei Main Station (Danshui and Nangang lines), and Zhongxiao Fuxing Station (Nangang Line) in 2006, in addition to thoroughly revising car-borne signaling systems on the company's 64 trains.

"The 1.45-meter-high doors improved the safety of passengers waiting on the platform ... but the system doesn't aim directly at discouraging suicide attempts," Chao said.

"It is difficult to install platform doors on metro lines that are already operating," he continued, noting the system will be installed in new subway stations only in the future.

He added that the "Track Intrusion Detection System" could on the contrary be expanded to all subway stations by the end of this year.

The system uses infrared and radio detectors to detect unusual movement in the track area, along the platform edges and gates.

If a passenger steps into one the surveillance areas, an alarm is activated, sending a warning to the station's control panel, activating a remote traffic light — installed 150 meters from the platform — and warning the driver to decelerate.

It takes roughly 100 meters to stop a subway train in case of emergency.

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