China Times: After 59 deaths, does it end with officials' resignation?

2017/02/21 19:55:12 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
CNA file photo

CNA file photo

Fifty-nine lives have been lost in tour bus accidents over the past seven months, on the watch of the same transportation minister, exposing problems that range from poor tour bus management and overworked drivers to vicious competition in the industry.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications has learned nothing from the deadly tour bus fire last year. Amid public pressure in the wake of another deadly tour bus accident this month, it is now asking the heads of the Directorate General of Highways and the Tourism Bureau to step down. But the spotlight should be on Transportation Minister Ho Chen Tan (賀陳旦)and Premier Lin Chuan (林全).

The transportation ministry is responsible for managing tour bus operations, which include vehicle imports, construction, testing and supervision. Ho Chen Tan has been transportation minister for nine months, but has yet to propose any regulations for tour buses or to implement better safety standards. Does he not bear any responsibility?

Since double-decker tour buses were introduced into Taiwan in 1983, what have government supervisory units done to act as regulators? Tour buses can easily pass the load test and 35 degree tilt test if the operators have connections. If the bus involved in the deadly crash this month had taken the tilt test fairly, the catastrophe very likely could have been avoided.

Double-decker tour buses, 3.8-meters high, are often equipped with everything from refrigerators to audio visual equipment. With so much extra weight, how can they pass safety checks? Or is it that such safety checks exist in name only?

Is the Executive Yuan completely unaware of these problems? Shouldn't lawmakers, who are responsible for oversight of the Executive Yuan, voice their concerns? Shouldn't the Control Yuan launch an investigation?

Behind every accident, there are direct and underlying causes. When the same type of disaster occurs repeatedly, there is usually a structural cause. We can prevent the recurrence of such disasters by identifying and examining the underlying and structural causes and learning from them. But looking back at the slew of disasters in recent years, we must question whether there has been any serious examination of the causes.

The gas explosions in Kaohsiung blew up the city streets in 2014 (and killed 32 people), the water park explosion in New Taipei in 2015 took 15 lives, the tour bus fire last year (took 26 lives), and 33 people died in the tour bus crash last week. Can we continue to cover our eyes and treat every disaster as an act of fate?

To regain public trust, the Executive Yuan and transport ministry must face the problems and conduct a comprehensive review of such disasters.

Public trust will only be further eroded if the government continues to shirk its responsibility and merely ask officials to resign in the wake of disasters. (Editorial abstract -- Feb. 21, 2017)

(Summarized by Christie Chen)

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