140 kph speed of train suspected as cause of deadly derailment in Taiwan's Yilan

Excessive speed of 140 kph in 60 kph zone suspected of being cause of deadly Puyuma Express train derailment in Taiwan's Yilan

(CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- After a deadly derailment of the Puyuma Express in Taiwan's Yilan County killed 18 and injured 187, investigators suspect that the train's excessive speed of 140 kilometers per hour (kph) in a reduced speed zone could have been the cause of the accident.

The Puyuma express train No. 6432 , headed from northern Taiwan to the south-eastern city of Taitung (台東), had a total of 366 passengers onboard when it came off the tracks close to the Xinma Station (蘇澳鎭) in Su'ao at 4:50 p.m. yesterday afternoon (Oct. 21), according to TRA. All eight of the carriages comprising the train came off the rails, with five completely overturning, killing 18 and injuring 187.

The top speed of the Puyuma Express train is 150 kph, while its normal operating speed is 130 khp. Yesterday, when the train approached Xinma Railway Station, a traffic recorder registered the train has speeding along at a standard 140 kilometers per hour. However, when approaching the following curves the trains are normally supposed to reduce their speed in half to between 60 to 70 kph, reported Liberty Times.

Apple Daily reported that the Automatic Train Protection System had been disabled prior to departure due to a malfunction, and that this could have contributed to derailing the train, permitting it to go too fast for the curve, according to people familiar with the matter. The system is designed to enforce adherence to a commanded speed pattern and to prevent accidents.

At a press conference today, Chief Secretary of TRA, Chu Lai-shun (朱來順), said that the driver of the train reported a problem with "low (air) pressure" just before the accident occurred. Chu emphasized that, based on the investigation thus far, no evidence has been found showing that the derailment was related to the disabling of ATP.

In a 12-second video released by the TRA today, the train can be seen rapidly approaching a hazardous bend. Suddenly, the train's engine starts to lean to its left before leaping off the tracks and rolling onto its left side.

The engine continues to skid at a high speed along the tracks as its trailing carriages each bounce off the the tracks one after the other. Sparks starts to fly and smoke begins to billow as the lead engine and trailing carriages crash into each other and the poles supporting the overhead power lines.