The one-year anniversary of the 2021 Hualien train derailment that killed 49 people is approaching. Victims say the Presidential Office and Executive Yuan both guaranteed that the incident would be dealt with properly, but 50 percent of those injured have not yet signed the reconciliation agreement.
Representatives of victims of the 2021 Hualien train derailment braved the rain to protest outside the legislature. They demanded a face-to-face meeting with Transportation and Communications Minister Wang Kwo-tsai. They were supposed to meet with him last week, but he stood them up.
Victims' Representative: “Our Transportation and Communications Minister Wang Kwo-tsai previously told the media that he is willing to meet with family members on any Saturday or Sunday. Nearly a year has passed since the Taroko Express accident, and victims have been begging him for this entire year. He has not even consented to meet with us once.”
Victims' Representative: “Taiwan Railways' reforms continue to fail, and similar incidents occur again and again, each time with more casualties. I think not only is the TRA's safety out of control, but also its culture and system.”
Victims said the minister needs to honor his commitments and meet with them face to face. They also said Taiwan Railways Administration needs to be externally supervised when undergoing safety reforms, and the supervisory group should include victims' family members and representatives. Wang came to the scene to speak with protesters and convince them that he didn't stand them up. He said his subordinates did not make the proper arrangements for the meeting last week and there were misunderstandings over the timing. He promised to meet with representatives on March 29.
Wang Kwo-tsai, Transportation and Communications Minister: “It's come to my understanding that you all felt that it was very difficult to meet with me last week. That's why I immediately asked my subordinates to communicate with all of you. I've kept my schedule free tomorrow at 3 p.m. for all of you and I will listen attentively to all your opinions.”
Tu Wei, Director-General, TRA: “We have not once stopped communicating with the group of victims and family members of those killed.”
Chen Jiau-hua, Legislator (NPP): “You're here talking about what a great job you've done, that you've been in constant contact. ”
Tu Wei, Director-General, TRA:“No, that was not my intention.”
Chen Jiau-hua, Legislator (NPP): “However, our minister was subject to so much criticism today and I think that's absolutely unreasonable.”
Legislators said the TRA took charge of negotiating with family members of victims after the accident, but only half of the victims have so far signed reconciliation agreements. They said the TRA is not working hard enough, and it makes people think that safety reforms will also be inadequate. Members of the Taiwan Railway Labor Union have said they may refuse to work overtime during the Labor Day long weekend. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications says it continues to hold internal meetings to discuss differences between the union and its draft regulations for the corporatization of the TRA. It says five of the 12 articles can be amended to bridge gaps and negotiations will continue.