Mon, May 26, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Government will build CKS link

PUBLIC WORKS President Chen has indicated that the government will take over the construction of the airport rail link, ending the project's six-year privatization fiasco

STAFF WRITER

The government will spend approximately NT$120 billion to build three separate rail links to Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, Chinese-language media reported over the weekend.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said on Saturday that in an effort to boost local economies impacted by SARS, the government decided to follow through on the construction project, scrapping an earlier six-year effort to have private contractors construct the build-operate-transfer (BOT) project.

The decision is expected to eliminate the bidding process and move the estimated construction completion date forward to 2008 from 2010, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Ling-san (林陵三) said on Saturday.

He added that the route would be similar to the one formulated by the originator of the plan, Evertransit International Co (長生開發), who lost the contract late last year after it failed to raise the necessary funds.

The project's three routes include the main Taipei to CKS line, and two shorter extentions to the airport, one each from Chingpu Township and Taoyuan City.

The proposed 35km main line, starting from the Hsimen MRT station and cutting through Sanchung, Wuku, HsinChuang, Taishan and Linkou townships, is expected to cost NT$70 billion.

The commute from downtown Taipei to the airport is expected to take around 35 minutes, with tickets expected to cost around NT$120 per person.

In addition, the airport will also be connected by a 16km extension to the north-south high-speed rail system from Chingpu station at a cost of NT$32 billion. That line is also expected to start operation by October 2005.

The final leg of the plan includes turning an existing 19.2km rail line between Linkou and Taoyuan City into an MRT line by 2006 at a cost of NT$17.3 billion.

According to Lin, most of the funding will come from the Cabinet's special budget for next year.

The construction process should able to start next year, he added.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance expressed concern over the source of the funding, saying the investment may turn the government financial situation from bad to worse.

According to ministry statistics, as of this year the government budget deficit has surpassed NT$3 trillion.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications decided to end talks with the BES Engineering Corp (中華工程) on the proposed airport-rail project last month due to infrastructure changes along the proposed route over the past five years.

The ministry granted priority negotiating rights to BES Engineering on Dec. 31 last year after Evertransit failed to pay the ministry for the rights to the project.

A ministry official said back in January that the airport-rail project may have lost its initial purpose -- that of being a quick, direct form of transportation between the CKS International Airport and Taipei.

Proposals now include a total of between eight and 16 stops on the approximately 30km route, which many critics say will slow the train to a crawl, rendering it redundant and pointless.

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