Fri, Jan 18, 2008 - Page 12 News List

THSRC aims to double revenues

GOOD FIRST YEAR With an average 0.27-minute delay, the operator said that the high speed rail's punctuality rate was better than that of similar services in Japan and Europe

By Judy Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

By improving shuttle bus services and adding variety to the ticket, Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC, 台灣高鐵) aims to double both its number of passengers and revenue this year.

"Revenue for the entire year should reach NT$30 billion [US$929.5 million]. Our goal is to at least double the number of passengers," THSRC chief executive officer Ou Chin-der (歐晉德) said in a press conference celebrating the company's first year of operations yesterday.

Ou said that balance between monthly income and overhead would be attained by the end of this year.

In its first year, the company made revenues of NT$14 billion, with 15.79 million tickets sold.

The company said that its punctuality rate of 99 percent -- or delays averaging 0.27 minutes -- was better than that of Japan's Shinkansen, the Eurostar and the TGV in France.

Statistics released by the THSRC showed that the frequency of trains between Taipei and Kaohsiung had increased from 38 round trips in the first week of operation to 126 by the end of last year, with an average occupancy of 44.72 percent.

The company hopes to boost that percentage to 60 and the number of runs to 176 by December.

A survey by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) in September showed that 28.7 percent of occupants used the THSRC for business purposes, 26 percent to visit relatives, 22.7 percent for tourism, while 19.6 percent had only taken the train out of curiosity.

"Our aim is to win over people who still choose to drive their car on weekends or holidays and increase people's curiosity and confidence in the high-speed train," Ricardo Tan (譚尹衡), senior vice president of THSRC's corporate planning division, said yesterday.

MOTC statistics showed that since the THSRC's first day of operation on Jan. 5 last year, passengers who took the airplane and traditional railways for trips within the country had both dropped by more than 10 percentage points, while those who took long-distance buses had declined 6 percent as of the end of September.

The percentage of people who choose to drive remained unchanged, at 21.4 percent.

In addition to plans to increase shuttle bus services at Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Chiayi and Tainan, and improvements in links to city centers in Taichung and Kaohsiung, the company intends to launch a multiple-entry pass this year, Ou said.

The first-come, first-served seating in selected compartments introduced in November as a pilot marketing scheme will become a regular service, he said.

Discounts for off-peak rides and package deals for small tourist groups are also on the drawing board, in a bid to widen the customer base and push up loading rates, Ou said.

Although the company was optimistic over its business prospects, Ou said that listing on the the Taiwan Stock Exchange remained a long-term goal.

THSRC trades on the Emerging Stock Market (興櫃市場), where securities firms, not retail investors, can trade common shares issued by public companies by means of negotiation.

The company's shares closed 0.59 percent lower at NT$8.4 yesterday.

Ou said foreign investors had expressed an interest in offering new loans to THSRC to help reduce interest costs.

He declined to identify the interested parties.

The company's outstanding liability totaled NT$377.16 billion as of June 30, the company said.

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