Taiwan's Puyuma and Taroko trains purchased illegally: NPP leader

NPP leader claims Taiwan Railways Administration illegally purchased over 30 Puyuma and Taroko trains

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Wrecked Puyuma train.

Wrecked Puyuma train. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- In the wake of the deadly Yilan train derailment in October, New Power Party (NPP) Executive Chairman Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) yesterday claimed that the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) illegally purchased 32 Puyuma Express and Taroko Express trains, reported TVBS.

After the deadly derailment of a Puyuma Express train on Oct. 21, which claimed the lives of 18 and injured 215, Huang disclosed that the TRA had bypassed public procurement regulations to purchase Puyuma and Taroko trains. He added that former premier Lin Chuan (林全) had been informed of the matter in 2016, but no action had been taken.

On a Facebook post, Huang said that when the TRA tendered bids for the Taroko Express to Hitachi represented by Marubeni and the Puyma Express to Sumitomo, a bitter fight ensued. In 2004, the Taroko bid was finalized and in 2011 the Puyuma bid was completed.

However, Huang said that successive political officials representing the two companies still struggled with each other and it became ugly. In the end, the solution was for "everyone to eat meat," and "not make any noise."

Huang explained that on Dec. 27, 2014, the TRA decided to award two procurement cases at the same time, and decided to purchase 16 Taroko and 16 Puyuma trains from the two Japanese companies for NT$925 million and NT$896 million, respectively. However, neither of those two purchases had undergone public bidding, and in both cases, illegal restrictive bidding was used to ensure that "everyone had their share."

Huang pointed out that "by 2014, the 2004 Taroko project had already exceeded the 'follow up expansion of train purchases' deadline and the 2011 Puyuma project did not have have such an expansion of item purchase clause." Huang then said, "In order to avoid public bidding, the TRA tried to invoke an exception to Article 22, Paragraph 1, Subparagraph 4 of the Government Procurement Act (政府採購法) in the case by going through 'other persons identified by the competent authorities' instead."

As a result, in March 2014, the project Executive Yuan’s Public Construction Commission denied permission. The TRA tried citing Article 22, Paragraph 1, Subparagraph 4 of the Government Procurement Act "Follow-up maintenance, spare parts supply, replacement or expansion," but the commission did not dare endorse it, said Huang.

"Knowing that it was breaking the law, the TRA still did it anyway," said Huang.

Huang asked, "Former Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時), how could there be such a clear violation of the law? In March of 2014, Fan Chih-ku (范植谷), Director of the TRA was promoted to a permanent post, and at the same time Chou Yung-hui (周永暉) was promoted as Director of the TRA. What are you doing? Please come out and give us an explanation!"

Huang also called on the Control Yuan and Audit Office to "wake up, rectify these unlawful acts, and sack the officials."