MOTC to consult public opinion in resolving Taipei Main Station ban

CNA file photo

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) will seek to determine an optimal solution, one that takes public opinion into consideration, before making a decision on when the ban on mass gatherings and sitting on the ground in the main hall of Taipei Main Station will be ended, the transport minister said Tuesday.

Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) made the comments following a mixed response to his rejection of an earlier Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) proposal on Monday that the current ban would remain in place indefinitely.

Lin said the main hall should be opened up as soon as possible because it is a public space where migrant workers often gather with friends on their days off because it is spacious and air-conditioned.

However, Lin promised to find common ground so the hall can be used without compromising adversely impacting passengers’ convenience and safety, before a final decision is made.

While some agreed with TRA’s initial position on Monday that the ban, which was imposed in February to curb the spread of COVID-19, would remain in place, others were more critical.

Wu Jing-ru (吳靜如), a researcher at Taiwan International Worker’s Association, said TRA’s decision to continue the ban represented “discrimination in the name of the pandemic.”

The large public space should not be used only for exhibitions and businesses, but also as a third space for migrant workers to relax and socialize, she said.

Lee Ker-tsung (李克聰), a transportation technology and management expert with the Consumers’ Foundation, Chinese Taipei, said the hall is not fully utilized from a transportation management perspective.

There are shops but few seats in the hall, and the station needs to better evaluate people’s need to sit, he said.

Hsin Ping-lung (辛炳隆), an associate professor at National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of National Development, suggested a third option.

The TRA’s concern is understandable, but it could leave migrant workers with no place to gather, he added.

The workers could instead be forced to gather near shops or convenience stores, he said, suggesting the government provide another venue for mass gatherings.

Netizens opposed to the ban continuing have proposed a protest at the hall on May 23 and urged members of the public “to hold picnics, sing, sit or lie down” to express dissatisfaction, while others said such behavior should be forbidden.

The TRA noted that mass gatherings and sitting on the ground in the hall are currently banned due to the pandemic and that anyone disobeying those public health rules will be fined.

Following heated debate over the seemingly contradictory official statements, Lin said the TRA has established a taskforce to evaluate the issue and will try to find common ground.

The key is to engage the public in dialogue, he added.