Thu, Jan 27, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Chen asks Wang Yung-ching for help on rail project

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Workers check electrical systems on the Tainan section of the high-speed railway yesterday. The Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp will test-drive trains on a 60km stretch of track between Kaohsiung and Tainan today.

PHOTO: WU CHUN-FUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Formosa Plastics Group chairman Wang Yung-ching (王永慶) confirmed yesterday that the company is considering investing in the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC), which is reportedly struggling to raise the NT$7.5 billion needed to continue construction.

The troubled THSRC failed to raise the sum through issuance of preferred shares because of funding shortfalls by some of its investors, the company said in a statement.

Wang told reporters that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) suggested he help relieve THSRC's financial burden when they met on Jan. 6. After the meeting, THSRC chairwoman Nita Ing (殷琪) visited him regarding the matter, Wang said.

Wang said he will make a final decision after reviewing an evaluation report which he has requested from Ing. He said he has not yet received the report.

Arthur Chiang (江金山), the THSRC's vice president of public affairs, refused to comment on Wang being a prospective investor, saying the company was required to keep the list of potential investors confidential in accordance with Securities and Futures Commission regulations.

Chiang said the company needs to raise NT$6 billion by March and NT$7.5 billion by May to continue construction of the 345km line connecting the north and south of the country.

The THSRC has completed 78 percent of the project and today will test-drive a train on a 60km stretch of track between Kaohsiung and Tainan, a test that was postponed for more than three months. The delay triggered doubts over whether the company could launch the service by the end of October as scheduled.

Chiang said the delay was mainly because of uninstalled core electrical systems.

The company has asked the contractor to accelerate work, and the final deadline has not been revised.

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