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Construction work eyed in Taichung MRT after girder mishap

Construction work eyed in Taichung MRT after girder mishap

The father of Liang Hsiao-kai, one of the construction workers killed when a box girder fell Friday while being lifted into place on the Taichung MRT Green Line, has charged contractors with failing to secure girders in places along the line. Liang says that workers are not installing a sufficient number of bolts to hold sections of the girders firmly in place after they are lifted to the top of piers.

A resident surnamed Yang who lives nearby says he was surprised to find that one girder which has already been in position for more than a month has many holes that have not been filled with bolts. He surmised that Liang’s claims may be true and work crews are skimping on the number of bolts used to secure sections of the girders in order to meet deadlines for construction. He speculated that as long as the box girder sections fit into place, crews are totally unconcerned about safety issues.

Yang said he watches the news every day, and “I never expected to find ticking time bombs here in my own neighborhood!"

One reporter on the scene a couple of days ago at 9:00AM noted a group of workers gathered in one spot, observing that no one dared to stand beneath the box girders to get out of the hot sun. The box girder sections overhead weigh at least 50 tons each, and they are closely fitted, but there are also holes drilled on the four sides of the section ends that must be secured with steel bolts to ensure that the sections will stay in place.

The tops and bottoms of the section ends have 16 by 18 patterns with a total of 288 holes while the sides are fitted with 15 by 14 patters for a total of 210 holes. One reporter saw a box girder where only 24 bolts had been fitted on the bottom, meaning that nearly 90% of the bolts holes were empty. On the side of the box girder only three bolts had been installed, one of which had already started to work its way out.

A worker in the steel industry explains that the reinforcing plates for box girders are precisely designed and manufactured, and each bolt hole is carefully designed and positioned to bear a certain weight load. Each bolt is very important, he said, emphasizing that "A single bolt cannot be missing!"

The worker said that under instructions to speed up construction work the contractor might be tempted to work to rules during the day but skimp on labor and materials during night operations in order to minimize overtime and other costs.

Cheng Hsu-cheng, an assistant manager with Far Eastern Construction, has denied that the firm is under any pressure to rush work on the MRT line. He also says the girder sections in question were put into place only yesterday when work resumed after a temporary halt due to Friday’s accident. He denied that sections had been in place for more than a month without being properly secured with bolts.

On Monday the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) issued a statement pointing out that the Taichung Metro accident raises questions about the safety and reliability of construction on the project and called for an investigation into job site management on the Green Line.

The MOTC noted that the Taichung Metro Transit Authority commissioned the Taipei Rapid Transit System (TRTS) to handle construction on the line, taking advantage of TRTS’s experience and expertise in developing MRT lines in the Greater Taipei area. Unfortunately Friday’s accident indicates there may be problems that need to be ferreted out and resolved in work being done on the line
In a "tripartite agreement" signed November 15, 2008, the Taipei City and Taichung City governments and the MOTC entered into a three-way cooperative effort designed to make full use of shared resources and promote inter-regional cooperation in developing Taichung’s rapid transit plans.

Under the terms of the agreement the MOTC is responsible for overseeing planning and funding while the TRTS is handling design, construction, and operation of the system. The Taichung City Government is in charge of land development, urban planning, land acquisition and funding.

As the lead on construction work, TRTS engineering units are expected to operate in accordance with relevant laws and regulations, says the MOTC, with the Taichung City Government acting as a backup in support of the Taipei group.

A spokesperson for the MOTC noted that the ministry has been following developments in the Taichung MRT accident closely and sent a vice-president from the Taiwan High-speed Railway Administration to monitor follow-up operations at the site. The MOTC stresses that at all public construction works safety is of the utmost importance, and proper precautions and safety regulations must be observed as well as traffic controls around construction sites to ensure the safety of construction crews and the public.

Updated : 2021-09-23 23:41 GMT+08:00