Airport MRT safety assured with operations around corner: officials

Safety concerns over the long-awaited mass rapid transit (MRT) line between Taipei and the country's main airport were addressed and operations could start in the near future, an independent taskforce appointed to facilitate the process said Saturday.

"The committee has confirmed the system's safety," said committee head Chiang Yao-chung (???), explaining that previous problems concerning the line's signal operations, mechanical and electrical systems were fixed.

The general stability of the MRT system has reached 98 percent, and that performance is expected to rise to 99 percent before the line starts operations, said Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (???).

Nevertheless, there are other non-safety-related standards stipulated in the contract still to be met, including travel time, train speed and intervals.

For instance, travel time between the Taipei Main Station and Airport Terminal 1 remains at around 36 minutes, falling one minute short, the Bureau of High Speed Rail under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), which is responsible for the construction of the airport MRT line, said.

Travel speed on express trains should be kept at 60 km per hour on average according to contract, but it currently stands at 57 kph, it said.

However, since the safety concerns have been addressed, the MOTC said it is possible that the airport MRT could start operations by the end of the year, vowing to have its general contractor, Marubeni Corp., improve the situation.

Compromises include keeping the train intervals at 12 minutes during peak hours and 15 minutes for non-peak hours during the initial service period, instead of the universal 10 minute standard under the terms of the contract, the ministry said.

The line, which has been under construction since 2006 and will serve 22 stations, was originally scheduled to open in 2010, but it has been delayed six times, largely due to signal problems and a lack of coordination between the line's contractors.

In the most recent delay, the MOTC postponed the March 2016 opening date for the line indefinitely, stressing there is no timetable for its operation.

Source: Focus Taiwan