Taiwan train driver charged with negligent manslaughter for derailment which killed 18

Two TRA officials were also indicted, but not three former railway chiefs nor the then-minister of transportation

The scene of the Puyuma express derailment at Xinma Station in Yilan County last October.

The scene of the Puyuma express derailment at Xinma Station in Yilan County last October. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The driver of the Puyuma express train which derailed in Yilan County last October killing 18 passengers and injuring 116, was charged with negligent manslaughter Thursday (June 6).

Yu Chen-chung (尤振仲) had switched off the train’s automatic train protection (ATP) system and was speeding at 141 kilometers an hour when going through a bend at Xinma Station, the Yilan District Prosecutors’ Office concluded in its report.

The ATP compares the actual speed of the train with the permitted speed allowed by signaling, and activates an emergency brake if it detects a difference.

On Sunday afternoon October 21, the No.6432 express on its way from Shulin in New Taipei City to Taitung approached a curve where the speed limit was set at 75 km per hour, but the train went in at almost twice that speed, investigators concluded.

Six of the eight carriages toppled over, collided and destroyed a wall, ending up in a “W” shape across the tracks.

Investigators concluded that half an hour before the accident, when the train proceeded between the stations of Dali and Daxi, Yu had turned off the ATP without reporting back to base, the Central News Agency reported. In addition, he failed to switch the system back on after reaching the next main station, at Toucheng.

Prosecutors also had harsh words for Taiwan Railways Administration officials who had failed to request the Japanese manufacturer to install a remote ATP link on the train and who had failed to address at least 600 problems reported with the ATP system since 2014.

The two officials, named as Liu and Wu, were also charged with negligent manslaughter Thursday following the questioning of 340 defendants, witnesses and experts over seven months, according to CNA.

Three former TRA chiefs and several other officials, including former Transportation Minister Wu Hong-mo (吳宏謀), were not indicted.