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No solution yet to switch lever problem: THSR

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The switch lever issue that caused a huge delay at the end of April cannot be completely eliminated as long as the system remains in operation, Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR) Chairman Tony Fan (范志強) said yesterday.

Fan was invited to the Legislative Yuan for his first interpellation session as head of the high-speed rail system. Legislators focused on an incident that delayed over 10,000 passengers and was caused by a switch lever malfunction.

According to Fan, all the THSR's switch levers are constantly in operation due to the high frequency of trains.

“In order to replace all the switch levers, the operation of the THSR would have to cease for at least one year, which is impossible for us to do right now,” said Fan.

“So far, we cannot find an optimal way to completely solve this issue,” said Fan.

According to the THSR's report, Taiwan chose to use the German high-speed system because the smallest headway period of THSR's trains is three minutes, which requires trains to enter stations at high speeds.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) said that six malfunctions have taken place so far this year, but detailed maintenance on switch levers was just conducted at the end of last year.

Fan said that so far, the maintenance has not fixed the switch levers completely, and the availability of the switch lever system — the span of time in which it is available for work — is not conducive to improvements.

“The THSR has already demanded that experts from Germany come to Taiwan and solve the issue of low availability regarding the switch levers,” said Fan.

Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) said that after the three new stations, namely Miaoli, Changhua and Yunlin, are launched, the distances between each station will be shortened.

“If the switch lever issue cannot be solved, it will be even harder to foresee a malfunction, which will cause more problems and delays,” said Lee.

Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said that it is possible that the switch lever issue will worsen after the three new stations are ready, so the ministry already demanded that THSR consult with experts from the manufacturers in Germany to figure out how to properly solve the issue.

Mixed Systems Led to Malfunction: Expert

Associate professor in the Department of Traffic and Transportation Engineering and Management at Feng Chia University Li Ker-tsung (李克聰) said that the THSR system that combines equipment from Europe and Japan could be the main cause of frequent malfunctions.

According to Li, the THSR system that contains equipment from multiple countries could be affected by the weather in Taiwan, so it is necessary for the THSR to conduct a detailed investigation on the suspected cause and frequency of malfunctions.

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