Tsai Vows to Overhaul Taiwan Railways After Fatal Hualien Crash

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen vowed to reorganize Taiwan Railways Administration after the worst crash in seven decades killed dozens on the first day of a holiday weekend.

The pledge came after days of mourning in Taiwan the death of at least 50 people in the Hualien crash, down from an earlier estimate of 51 deaths. Preliminary investigations show the accident was caused by a truck having rolled onto the line, derailing the train. The truck had been part of a railway-linked maintenance operation.

Many people have raised questions about safety management in the wake of the crash, Tsai said in a speech to members of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. The incident comes less than three years after a derailment in eastern Yilan county killed 18 people. Of some 144 recommendations for reform made after that crash, 109 items have been processed, she said.

“Reforming Taiwan Railways is imperative,” Tsai said. “Everyone in Taiwan hopes that Taiwan Railways can be safer and more efficient.”

Along with safety management, Tsai said the government would address Taiwan Railways Administration’s fiscal situation, noting it operates many unprofitable routes. Long-term losses have burdened the organization and hurt employee morale, she said.

After those issues are addressed, the government can examine whether the current model for the group is the most sustainable, she said.

Investigators are still trying to establish a definitive cause for the crash, in which the collision with the truck led the first five carriages of the eight-coach Taroko Express to derail and pile up inside a narrow, single-track tunnel about 125 kilometers (78 miles) from Taipei. The truck driver has been detained and apologized publicly.

The train was carrying people heading for home or holidays on the east coast on the first day of a four-day holiday weekend. The train driver was among those killed, and some 34 people remain hospitalized. Donations to the victims of the accident totaled $453 million Taiwanese dollars ($15.9 million) as of Wednesday morning.

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