Taiwan’s High Speed Revolution

The project is set to decrease travel time and the costs involved, and

will increase the communication between cities. It will enable Taiwan to

compete with cities such as Shanghai and Hong Kong. Phase one will consist

of nineteen trains that will run every day. Taiwan High Speed Rail

Corporation or THSRC, is hoping that the trains will attract approximately

150 000 passengers on a daily basis. If all goes well, the THSRC will be

able to expand their operations in the future, to 88 daily round trips.

Along the 345 kilometre line, there will be eight stations, with the

exception of the stretch between Taipei and Banciao, which will open later.

By 2010, they are hoping to have added an additional four stations.

Journalists have been invited to experience the trip, and found their

journey to be free of trouble and above all, fast. All though their trip

went smoothly, previous test runs were hampered by two derailments, which

caused the inauguration of the trains to be postponed. Inauguration was

scheduled for 7 December. With many concerns being that of safety, the

journalist were also allowed to take a look inside the Taoyuan county’s

systems control centre. Here the new drivers are put through rigorous

training, on simulated exercises, as previous trains only reached speeds of

80 kilometres an hour. Training for these drivers are an eight month course

and includes 1 000 hours of driving, both on the simulated exercises and on

the trains themselves. As the entire course is in English, tutors have been

recruited internationally, that have the necessary experience in high speed

trains.

Unfortunately, this project has been buried in controversy. The cost of

switching from European Eurotrain to a Japanese consortium has been

extremely high. The European consortium had to be paid $65 million, in

compensation, by the THSRC. Over and above that, the project ran into

construction and technical difficulties, as well as financial difficulties.

Due to the set back, the opening date of 2003, had to be delayed many times.

But even with all these odds against them, the THSRC still believes that

once the trains are operational, they could break even in the first year.

Under the BOT contract, the THSRC has 35 years running time, after which the

management and running is handed to the government. Operations and business

development was given a 50 year period.

Yet there are still many concerns from the public, and the THSRC remains

confident, that the more people use the trains, the more people they will

attract. They also believe that the trains will improve the construction of

new cities where they previously failed due to transportation problems.

Others are concerned that the railway will kill of any chance of the smaller

villages surviving, due to the attracting of the bigger cities. No matter

how much the cost involved was, or the speculation, the true impact on the

economy of Taiwan will only be seen once the railway is in full swing.