Speeding blamed for fatal train crash in Taiwan

Taiwan's government said Monday speeding was the main cause of a train derailment that killed 18 people last month in the first official report on the incident. 

The crash on the popular east coastline also injured more than 200 people and left the Puyuma Express lying zig-zagged across the tracks in the island's deadliest rail accident for a quarter century. 

The dead included eight members of a family returning from a wedding and three school children returning from an exchange program in South Korea. 

The report, released by a special cabinet taskforce probing the crash, said the train was travelling at 140 kilometres (87 miles) per hour, nearly double the speed limit imposed due to a curve in the track as it approached Xinma station, the crash site. 

"Speeding is the direct cause of this accident," Railway Bureau deputy director Yang Cheng-Chun told reporters.

 "Indirect causes" that led to the speeding included mechanical problems with the train's main air compressor and the driver turning off the Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system used to monitor speed in a bid to try to fix the problems, he added. 

"A string of protective measures in the whole process failed one by one, and as a result, the train was travelling at an excessive speed at the curve," said Yang. 

The driver was still communicating with dispatchers about the mechanical problems and did not slow down or hit the break two minutes before the train flipped, according to the report. 

When asked about the driver's responsibility, Yang said the cabinet probe was aimed at clarifying the cause rather than "assigning blame." 

In a separate, ongoing criminal investigation into the crash, prosecutors have said the driver is suspected of "professional negligence" over speeding and for switching off the ATP. 

 Wu Tse-cheng, a minister without portfolio who heads the task force, said there had been problems with the compressor since May but the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) has yet to clarify the cause. 

"As to TRA's responsibility, the authorities will be investigating. My view is that there will be administrative responsibilities as well," Wu said. 

Passengers recalled how the train had been shaking intensely during the journey and was going "too fast" before it derailed. 

According to TRA, a Puyuma Express train also derailed last year on the same line but no one was injured. 

In total, Taiwan has a fleet of 19 Puyuma Express trains, all made in Japan.


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