He said a construction truck whose owner was a contractor for the administration slid from a work site above the track.
Taiwan's last major rail crash was in October 2018 when an express trainderailed while rounding a tight corner on the northeast coast, killing at least 18 people and injuring almost 200. "It was terrifying. There were whole families there".
Rescue crews in Taiwan responded Friday to a train derailment on its scenic east coast that killed at least 34 and prompted dozens of passengers to crawl out of windows to safety.
He told reporters the train derailed north of the eastern city of Hualien after hitting the truck, which rolled onto the tracks from a nearby building site. Many passengers were tourists or people traveling to see family ahead of a yearly religious holiday.
An investigation has been launched, and Hualien police have interviewed one person, Weng said.
Some media outlets reported 350 passengers were on board at the time.
"At present it is suspected (that) the vehicle wasn't braked properly, (and) slid for around 20 meters along the site access road", Feng said.
Television footage and photos posted by people at the scene on the website of the official Central News Agency showed people climbing out the open door of a railcar just outside the entrance to the tunnel.
Taiwan train crash leaves 36 dead, several injured
"It suddenly came to a stop and then everything shook", one told local television.
Minutes later, the train's lead vehicle crashed into it, according to Railways Administration official Weng Hui-ping, just before the train entered a tunnel.
The accident occurred at the beginning of a long weekend for the traditional Tomb Sweeping Day holiday.
Taiwan's eastern railway line is usually a popular tourist draw down its dramatic and less populated eastern coastline. The railway that snakes down from Taipei hugs the coast and is known for its tunnels, in one of which the crash took place.
People further back in the train were able to walk away from the crash comparatively unscathed.
Taiwan is a mountainous island, and most of its 24 million people live in the flatlands along the northern and western coasts that are home to most of the island's farmland, biggest cities and high-tech industries.
That crash was the island's worst since 1991, when 30 passengers were killed and 112 injured after two trains collided in Miaoli.