Taiwan court: Excessive speed caused deadly train derailment

Excessive speed was the main cause of the derailment of a train in Taiwan that killed 18 people and injured scores of others, a district court said Tuesday.

The train entered a curve in eastern Taiwan on Sunday afternoon at 140 kilometers (87 miles) per hour, almost twice the speed limit for that section of track, the Yilan County district court said in a statement.

The train's driver has been placed under investigation on suspicion of negligence leading to death.

The driver, Yu Cheng-chung, had disabled the automatic train protection system after sensing "abnormal movements" in acceleration, the court statement said. The system would have allowed him to brake, and without it the driver was left to control the train by hand, it said.

"Because the automatic train protection system had been disabled, the driver should have been more careful in controlling the train's speed and used the brakes to prepare for avoiding danger," the statement said.

In the train's approach to the station where it derailed, the driver did not notice the speed rules, the court added. The train was not scheduled to make a stop at the station, where the speed limit is 75 kph (47 mph).

"There was no way to make the curve, causing the entire train to derail and flip over, resulting in the deaths of 18 people," the court said.

The driver was released on bail of 500,000 Taiwanese dollars ($16,141) and is not allowed to leave Taiwan.

Possible mechanical problems with the train are also being examined.

The 6-year-old Japanese-built Puyuma trains were built to travel at 150 kph (93 mph) to ease transportation on rugged parts of the mountainous island's east coast. They are designed to tilt when going around curves, making journeys quicker and easing pressure on the road system crossing Taiwan's central mountain range.

The train was carrying more than 360 passengers. The crash injured about 190 people.

Sunday's accident was Taiwan's deadliest railway disaster since a 1991 train wreck killed 30 people.