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Aloha bus line dispute escalates

Firm's drivers cause traffic jam after police cut off company's utilities in bid to force relocation

Aloha bus line dispute escalates

The feud between the Taipei City Government and a Kaohsiung-based bus company continued to escalate yesterday morning when 200 police officers were mobilized at 5 a.m. to cut off the power and water supply at the company's Taipei terminal on Chengde Road after the firm refused to relocate to a nearby facility.

To retaliate against the city government, the heads of the Aloha Bus Corp ordered bus drivers to drive 10 full-size charter buses slowly along the road, causing a heavy traffic jam.

The police subsequently detained eight of the buses and brought seven drivers in for questioning.

Aloha President Chen Re-ling vehemently protested against the sudden water and power stoppage, accusing the government of tyrannical behavior.

"We are a legal company and the government has no right to interfere with our operations," Chen said.

To solve the chronic traffic congestion on Chengde Road, the city government requested that all bus companies relocate to a transit center near Taipei Main Station last August. All bus companies, except for Aloha Bus Corp, have complied with the request and moved to the new spot.

However, claiming the new station is hazardous for passenger safety, Aloha ignored the demand and remained in its current location.

Chen said she has sent several appeals to Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) but said her objections to the move have gone unanswered.

"Just because my company logo is green, it does not mean that we are supporters of the pan-green party. If that's that case, anyone who wears red should be kicked out of Taiwan because that means they are pro-communism," Chen said, insinuating the move was politically motivated.

Moreover, Chen said an official from Taipei's Department of Transportation offered her NT$5 million in hush money when she pointed out the safety concerns of the new station.

But Taipei City Department of Transportation Commissioner Jason Lin dismissed Chen's allegations and challenged her to substantiate the claims. Lin said Chen and her company had no respect for the laws of the land and also asked the company to not blur the focus of the issue by raising doubts regarding the safety of the new station.

"We have conducted a thorough inspection and corrected all the flaws. The new station has absolutely no safety issues and is suitable for business," Lin insisted.

Meanwhile, Aloha manager Ruan Fu-sheng accused the government of being unreasonable. "We were never notified by the DOT that they would sever our electricity and water on this day. If the government does not abide by the laws, then how can they expect the public do things legally?" Ruan said.

In a bid to continue business yesterday, Chen devised an emergency contingency plan and changed the pick-up point to Sinjhuang in Taipei County.

Immediately after the move, county government law enforcers went to the station and demanded the operation be closed down as Sinjhuang is not a designated passenger pick up point.

"By law, Aloha cannot change their bus routes without going through the proper channels," said a DOT official. "By picking up passengers at an intermediate point, they are in clear violation of the Highway Act."

Kaohsiung 0DOT officials concurred, saying Aloha was contractually bound to pick up and drop off passengers at designated points and that neither Chengde Road or Sinjhuang were official stops.

Updated : 2021-06-18 13:52 GMT+08:00