Human error in Taiwan train derailment

The incident occurred when the train was travelling at 140km/h despite being in a 85km/h zone.A Taiwan train which derailed and killed 18 people had its Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system switched off without permission, officials say.

The high-speed Puyuma Express tilting train, carrying 366 passengers, derailed on Sunday in the eastern town of Suao, in Yilan County. Another 210 people were injured.

Excessive speed was the main reason for the incident, according to a preliminary investigation by prosecutors, Taiwan Railways Administration deputy director general Tu Wei said.

“Human errors were involved,” Tu told a news conference in Taipei.

The control centre was unaware that the ATP system – which maintains protection against excessive speed – had been turned off, thus standard emergency responses were not used.

According to Lai Suei-chin, a technical manager at the administration, the ATP system was running normally before it was turned off.

It remains uncertain why the driver, Yu Cheng-chung, turned off the ATP without reporting it.

Prosecutors have found that the incident occurred when the train passed Suao station at more than 140km/h despite being in a 85km/h zone.

Half an hour before the incident, Yu had contacted the central operation centre several times to ask for technical assistance to resolve problems with the braking system, rail officials said Monday.

On Tuesday, Yu was released on bail after admitting he had turned off the protection system and ran the train manually when passing Daxi Station, in Yilan, due to acceleration problems, the state-run Central News Agency said.

The results of the investigation are expected to be officially announced next week.