Thu, Sep 21, 2000 - Page 17 News List

Earthquakestill shaking rail project

TRANSPORT The massive earthquake in Taiwan on Sept. 21 last year has delayed the high-speed rail project and created cost overruns of above NT$50bn

By Dan Nystedt  /  STAFF REPORTER

A Shinkansen bullet train arrives at Tokyo station early this year. Taiwan will eventually have similar high-speed trains running from Taipei to Kaohsiung, but the massive earthquake last September has delayed the project.

PHOTO: AFP

Last year's disastrous earthquake may end up costing the Taiwan High Speed Rail project more than NT$50 billion and push the plan six months behind schedule, project officials said yesterday.

The 345km project to link Taipei and the southern city of Kaohsiung was interrupted by the 921 quake, which literally moved mountains in central Taiwan and forced officials to re-survey the entire train route and redesign stations, rails and tunnels.

According to officials at the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (高鐵公司), the company charged with completing the NT$455 billion (US$17.4 billion) plan, the project has lost time and money due to the earthquake and new building codes, both of which which are expected to increase construction costs. In addition, the new building codes have yet to be finalized.

"If we follow the new codes outright, the [construction] cost will increase by NT$40 billion to NT$50 billion," said Edward Lin, director of operations and management at the rail company.

He said that these figures are based on internal research, and that the company has not yet asked contractors to submit their estimates, which "could place the figure much higher."

To keep the project moving while the government finalizes new building standards, work contracts are still being awarded with a clarified formula for dispute resolution as new construction codes are made law.

In addition, a technician from the corporation said the earthquake has caused "at least six months" delay in work due to design changes and time spent re-surveying the island's terrain.

The rail corporation also sent its engineers down to Puli (埔里), JiJi (集集) and other towns devastated by the earthquake to help inspect buildings.

"We were pretty involved in the 921 earthquake clean-up," he said.

The crew also had to re-map Taiwan, putting together new surveys of a region shaken so hard "a lot of surveyed monuments -- control points that have been established in the ground -- have moved."

The company has had to recreate all of the island's terrain data.

Officials from the Ministry of Transportation and Communications' Bureau of Taiwan High Speed Rail (交通部高速鐵路工程局) do not expect final estimates from the earthquake's impact on the rail project to be known soon.

"They need to do research to determine what kind of impact the temblor had in terms of time and cost," said a bureau official, speaking under condition of anonymity. "Once they have formally prepared this information, it will be submitted to us."

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