TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The conductor of the derailed Taiwan Railway Puyuma train that killed 18 passengers in Yilan County on the afternoon of Oct. 21, 2018, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison on Monday (Oct. 18) for his reckless driving, according to the court’s sentencing document.
The Yilan District Court stated that the train heading to Taitung Station from New Taipei’s Shulin Station had run into problems with air compressors shutting down of their own accord before the derailment. The issue was in the first and eighth cars, which inhibited acceleration and caused the train to experience a stop-and-go pattern of motion.
Conductor Yu Chen-chung (尤振仲) mistakenly judged the stop-and-go problem to be caused by the Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system, the document said, and so he shut off the system not long after the train passed Fulong Station. This went against the Taiwan Railways Administration’s (TRA) rule of prohibiting the shutting off of the ATP system unless it’s out of order or otherwise prescribed to be turned off.
The train later stopped at Yilan and Loudong stations, but Yu failed to reactivate the ATP system.
When a train’s ATP system is turned off, the train driver is supposed to pay more attention to signs and signals along the tracks and observe the speed limit. However, Yu failed to do so.
As the train left Loudong Station and entered the straight section, the conductor increased the train’s speed to 140 kph. While the train was moving at that speed, he kept communicating with the train dispatcher and train examiner about some technical problems and ignored the 75 kph speed limit sign erected 163 meters before the curve in front of Xinma Station.
The train reached the curve at a speed of 140 kph — 65 kph above the speed limit — and the resulting derailment caused cars 3, 5, 7, and 8 to turn over. Eighteen passengers died, six suffered serious injuries, and 110 sustained moderate injuries.
The court attributed the accident mainly to the conductor turning off the ATP system in contravention of the rules and entering the curve at over double the speed limit.
Considering that Yu denied his offenses and did not show any remorse for the losses he caused, the court sentenced him to four years and six months in prison, according to the document.