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Railway research center is necessary, Taiwan bureau says

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The Bureau of High Speed Rail on Tuesday defended the necessity of establishing a railway research and certification center, saying it would serve as the last piece of the nation’s railway development puzzle.

As part of the “Forward-looking Infrastructure Construction Project,” the government is to spend NT$4.12 billion (US$135.9 million) on the center’s establishment.

However, lawmakers have said that such an agency is unnecessary, because the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ Institute of Transportation already acts as its think tank.

Bureau Secretary-General Yang Cheng-chun (楊正君) said the center would focus its resources on railway technology research and development, and would also certify the safety of parts or components produced by domestic manufacturers so that they can be used by the nation’s railway system operators: the Taiwan Railways Administration, Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp and the various metro companies.

In the past, the lack of a certification agency has forced many operators to import parts or components from manufacturers in other nations, Yang said.

The nation’s domestic production rate of railway-related parts and components is about 42 percent, including those for train carriages, signaling systems and other core systems, he said.

The government hopes to raise the production rate to 75 percent with the establishment of a research and certification center, Yang said, adding that these parts have the potential to be exported to other nations as well.

“We might not have the technology to develop a train system completely on our own and export the know-how to other nations, but at least we can make our manufacturers part of the global supply chain,” he said.

The center would also be in charge of stipulating specifications and standards for railway systems, Yang said, adding that it would offer operators technical solutions and assist the government in identifying the causes of accidents.

The ministry would still have the authority to conduct investigations, while the center would perform tests to help identify the causes of accidents, he said, adding that it would be equipped with laboratories to test brakes, bogies and pantographs, which are common sites for malfunctions.

Yang said similar agencies already exist in Japan (Railway Technical Research Institute), South Korea (Korea Railroad Research Institute), China (China Academy of Railway Sciences) and the UK (British Rail Research Division).

The bureau would be in charge of building the facility, which is to be completed by 2020, he said.


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