Sat, Nov 13, 1999 - Page 18 News List

French, German delegation to pitch high-speed rail


France and Germany are to send ministers to Taiwan in January for last-minute campaigning ahead of a decision on a lucrative high-speed rail contract, an official from one of the bidding firms said.

"French Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot and German Economic Minister Werner Muller will travel to Taiwan in January but not on the same date," said an official from the Eurotrain consortium -- made up of French firm Alstom and Germany's Siemens.

"We have full support of both governments," the official said on condition of anonymity. "It is reasonable they would voice their concerns while here."

The European conglomerate is locked in battle with the Shinkansen group of Japan for a NT$95 billion (US$3 billion) contract to supply train carriages and locomotives.

Gayssot cancelled a visit to Taiwan this month following the outbreak of a cabinet-level scandal in Paris which involves weapon sales to Taipei years ago.

Local media said Gayssot was scheduled to meet President Lee Teng-hui, Transport Minister Lin Feng-cheng and Nita Ing, chairwoman of Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC), which won the NT$440 billion(US$13.86 billion) contract for Taiwan's first high-speed rail project.

It will construct a 340-km railway linking Taipei and the southern city of Kaohsiung on a build-operate-transfer basis.

Japan, which is promoting Shinkansen's "bullet train" as more suitable for Taiwan than Eurotrain's TGV system, has been reluctant to make official contact with Taipei in deference to Beijing.

The Eurotrain official renewed the conglomerate's pledge to invest a 5 percent stake in the mammoth project. Eurotrain also guaranteed to help bring in investment for another 5 percent holding.

It forecast the Taiwan high-speed rail system to transport 100 million passengers a year, double that of the average passenger load for European rails of the same length.

Although the THSRC is to make a preliminary decision between Eurotrain and Shinkansen before the end of December, there is provision for the losing bidder to stake a late claim before the contract is signed in January which is when the French and German ministers are due to arrive.

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