2021 Hualien train derailment: How did the fatal accident happen?

Country/area: Taiwan

Organisation: READr

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 27/09/2021

Credit: Liu Yi-Xin, Lee Yu-Ju, Tseng Lee-Yu, Chen Wen-Yen, Syu Siang-Yun, Chien Hsin-chan, Lee Yi-Hsuan, Weng Rui-Kun


READr is not just a data newsroom, it is also a digital innovation team. The development of information news in Taiwan media is still not perfect at present. Although the READr is only a small information newsroom, we still try hard to have an indicative impact on the development of data journalism in Taiwan.


We always hope to make breakthroughs in every topic.Without the framework of traditional thinking, the team can make the report more creative and also keep the news professional by presenting stories in a true and complete way.

Project description:

A deadly crash involving a Taroko express train in Hualien in early April. In total, 49 people died and more than 200 people were injured in the crash. The report tried to figure out how the accident happened by rebuilding the research released by Taiwan Transportation Safety Board (TTSB). Moreover, we interviewed some employees such as train drivers, railroad track repair workers and train conductors to clarify the responsibilities of the Taiwan Railway Administration(TRA).

Impact reached:

We are one of the few news media in Taiwan that combines 3D modeling, monitor screens, illustrations, as well as chronological summary, to reconstruct the scene of the incident. All information is based on the independent investigation agency of large-scale traffic accidents. Besides, in addition to analyzing a single incident, we also analyzed the accident report of the Puyuma incident in 2018, and the improvement matters responded by the Taiwan Railway Administration. We found that TRA claimed that they had improved the site safty, but they were still sprinkled with mistakes in practice, when talking about the 2021 accident. Regarding the findings, we have received confirmation from the staff of the TRA. It is also the unique feature of this report: we did not only focus on a single case, but trying to learn from multiple train derailment cases, and we want to find out the institutional problems.

Techniques/technologies used:

This project is based on Nuxt.js and the scrolling-video package which released by TwReporter. Through the binding of video-play and scrolling-behavior on web page, users can easily dive into the stream of story, understanding the timeline and details of this tragedy, in an immersion experience. Moreover, users can skip some parts of explainations or timeline to fit their own needs by clicking the options in timeline or navbar. All these features create a better experience when reading a video-based, scroll-telling story.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The No.408 Taroko express train, which set off from Shulin Station in New Taipei on April 2 bound for Taitung County, hit a crane truck on the tracks as it approached Qingshui Tunnel causing it to crash into the wall of the tunnel. The accident killed 49 people and injured more than 200, the deadliest train crash in Taiwan for decades.

After the tragedy, people in Taiwan were really angry because the Puyuma express train derailed and overturned at Su’ao Xinma Station in rural Yilan County, resulting in 18 deaths and more than 200 minor and serious injuries on October 21, 2018. People were confused why there were two serious train derailments in Taiwan Railways in less than three years.


According to the preliminary investigation report released by TTSB, the derailment accident occurred not only because Li Yi-xiang, the site supervisor, was negligent in his duties, but also because of serious problems with the safety procedures of Taiwan Railways. The report spent more than 500 pages analyzing personal causes and systemic problems. After reading all the report documents, this article uses 3D modeling, monitor screens, illustrations, as well as chronological summary, to try to reconstruct the scene of the incident and what happened before and after the accident.


In addition, since the TTSB’s report mentioned the negligence of Taiwan Railways, we interviewed the frontline staff of Taiwan Railways, and asked them to share what they observed after the 2018 Puyuma accident, and the changes Taiwan Railways should do but did not do, and whether inaction is one of the reasons to this tragedy. We want to realize why derailment accidents happen repeatedly through analyzing a single incident and the institutional problems of Taiwan Railways.

What can others learn from this project?

When users are reading this report, they can not only return to the scene of the incident from 3D modeling, monitor screens, illustrations, and other elements that emphasize the sense of reality, but also review the time of about 7 or 8 seconds before the accident is about to happen. After the accident, the internal conditions of the Taroko train and the changes in the surrounding environment can also be found from the interviews with the firstline staff of Taiwan Railways. The accident is not accidental, but is caused by a series of systemic issues and the lack of training. As users recognize the proximate and ultimate causes, they will gain a deeper understanding of the accident.

Project links: