Fri, Feb 23, 2001 - Page 17 News List

Rail project spooks more tech firms

SHAKEOUT Two more companies have become aware of the risks involved with placing sensitive manufacturing equipment close to the high-speed rail, and they are altering their construction plans


One by one, key investors in the Tainan Science-Based Industrial park (南科, TSIP) appear to be aborting plans in the facility due to concerns that vibrations from the high-speed rail line will affect their highly sensitive manufacturing equipment.

The latest firms to mull pulling out or are actually canceling planned projects are DRAM chipmakers Silicon Integrated Systems Co (矽統, SIS) and Chi Mei Electronics Corp (奇美電子). The news comes following Winbond Electronics Corp's (華邦) decision to cancel its 12-inch wafer plant project in the park.

Parts of the industrial park are only 200m from the planned high-speed rail line.

Silicon Integrated Systems Co, Taiwan's second-largest chipset maker, announced yesterday that it may also halt construction of their chip factory in the park.

Nevertheless, Silvia Lin (林紫玲), senior corporate marketing manager at Silicon Integrated said, "We have decided to wait for the government's response to the problem before making any decision on whether to stay at the current site or not," Lin said.

SIS' first 12-inch wafer plant, which broke ground on Dec. 21 last year, was based on the assumption that they would not be affected by the high-speed railway, Lin said. Construction is now in the "preliminary planning stage of building the foundation," Lin said.

Lin believes the government will resolve the problem within the next three months, and if not, she said the plant site can be changed even if the entire external structure is completed.

The company plans to invest NT$50 billion to build the plant, which is scheduled to be completed in 2002.

The 340km high-speed rail system linking Taipei and the southern city of Kaohsiung is scheduled to begin operating in 2005.

Meanwhile, another high-tech heavyweight, Chi Mei Electronics Corp, indicated they may also ax plans to build three of five planned plants, local Chinese-language media reported yesterday. Two Chi Mei plants currently under construction will proceed, but the construction of three others is now being reconsidered, the report said.

Chen Chiun-wei (陳俊偉), deputy director of the Tainan Science Park Development Office (南科籌備處) said they didn't receive any complaints about the potential vibration issue -- except from Winbond -- until now.

"All companies located in the industrial park were informed of the high-speed railway problem more than two years ago." Chen said, "Chi Mei and SIS are both located over 200m away from railway's path. In Japan, such a distance has been proven to have no effect [on manufacturers] if vibration-reduction measures are taken."

Liao Ching-lung (廖慶隆), director general of the Taiwan High Speed Rail Bureau, said the Ministry of Transportation and Communications has already signed a BOT (build-operate-transfer) agreement with Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (台灣高鐵), and therefore the government must stick to its original agreement.

Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp officials shared that same view, adding that the contract must be changed if the government wants the rail company to alter the structural design of the line, the officials said. High Speed Rail said the government must take full responsibility for the extra costs and construction delays involved with diverting the line.

According to the rail line, a one-day delay in the NT$500 billion project will cost the project concessionaire an estimated NT$300 million.

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