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Transport official says broken TRA rail cable caused by negligence

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Transportation and Communications Deputy Minister Fan Chih-ku (范植谷) confirmed yesterday that a train cable that recently snapped resulted from neglect during previous checkups.

Following an incident on Feb. 28 when a train pulled down an overhead electric cable, the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) conducted a probe that revealed the screws of the electricity collector shoe stands and rails were loose. Many trains remained packed after the schedule was seriously disrupted by a power outage last weekend.

The stands had collided with the cables after being shaken loose by the train cars, said Fan, who added that surveillance footage showed the stands were gone when the train passed Xizhi on Feb. 27, but the missing stands were overlooked when the train driver inspected the train the next day. “The cables were jerked free and snapped as they were not protected by the stands,” said Fan, who doubles as head of the TRA.

The fallen electricity shoe stand had been discovered on top of the said train, said Fan.

The TRA faces problems due to a lack of maintenance staff and dilapidated electric cables, Fan said. The TRA's Western Line went electric in 1979, and the electric cables usually have a life span of between 16 and 20 years. The cables at the Puxin Station have not been changed for 30 years. Some of the aged electric cables on the TRA's Western Line are already 34 years old.

The TRA has completed replacement of the cables between Keelung and Chunan in Northern Taiwan, leaving 476 km of old electric cables on the Western Line, and is aiming to complete the replacement of a further 22 km this year.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) noted that the current technology has progressed for trains to use screws that never come loose, and suggested that the TRA verify the actual reason for the accident and alter their plans.

Transport and Communications Minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) stated that the TRA should shoulder all responsibilities for the weekend traffic congestion and to fix the hardware problems.

TRA Head to Change in One Month: Yeh

Yeh announced in the Legislative Yuan yesterday that the TRA would have to find a new leading officer in one month's time, and that the position would no longer be held by Fan.

Fan had been in position as the head of TRA since December 2006.

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