Thu, Nov 25, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Officials told to begin planning

DEVELOPMENT Attendees at a Taipei forum were told that towns and counties must do more to attract people and businesses when the high-speed rail opens

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Pundits and officials yesterday suggested that cities along the nation's first high-speed railway start investing in software infrastructure, or the bullet trains will only bring recession instead of the prosperity that municipal officials are expecting.

The remarks were made during a forum hosted by the Chinese-language magazine Global Views Monthly (遠見雜誌). The magazine invited Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), former chief executive of Royal Philips Electronics in Taiwan Lo Yi-chiang (羅益強), and Charles Hseuh (薛昭信), an advisor to the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp's (THSRC, 台灣高鐵) Station Area Development Division, to share their views on the impact brought new railway.

The 345km long rail line that will run between Taipei and Kao-hsiung is scheduled to start operations next October. With a speed of 300kph, the bullet trains will cut the travel time between the two cities to an hour-and-a-half.

Local industries have been discussing whether the new service will help balance regional development in the west of Taiwan, or siphon off more people from towns to cities.

From a business point of view, Lo said the local governments in the areas the train will pass through -- Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan and Kao-hsiung -- should devise plans to develop local industries and public infrastructure in order to lure new business opportunities and new residents.

"But now people only want to take advantage of the skyrocketing land prices around the stations, which is bad for the development of the region," Lo said.

Hsieh said the Kaohsiung City Government has been trying to improve various facilities, such as its logistics infrastructure, including the quality of its water supply and its under-construction rapid transit system.

Hseuh said the THSRC is planning the development of its train station areas and will start to invite bids from private companies next year.

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