Passengers using their EasyCards on the MRT Neihu Line from Saturday through the end of the year will receive a 36 percent discount, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said yesterday, in a goodwill gesture to compensate for the system’s recent technical troubles.
The plan is expected to cost NT$200 million (US$6 million) in revenues, Taipei Rapid Transit Corp (TRTC), the system’s operator, said in a statement yesterday. The discount will save EasyCard users up to NT$11 per trip, or up to NT$24 per trip compared with those who purchase single-trip tickets, TRTC said.
The long-awaited Neihu Line was inaugurated on July 4, but has suffered repeated glitches, including sudden stops and doors failing to open.
On July 10, a power outage brought the line to a stop, leaving approximately 700 passengers stranded on trains that stopped between stations. They were forced to walk to nearby stations along the tracks after it was determined that the problem could not be immediately resolved.
Many members of the public have complained that the city government should shoulder responsibility for the problems.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Hau said that in a meeting on Monday with executives of Canada-based contractor Bombardier Inc, the company promised the line would reach 99 percent reliability by mid-November as stated in the contract.
Hau yesterday apologized to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for the “inconveniences” the technical problems have caused.
Ma has come under criticism because he was the mayor of Taipei during the planning and most of the construction of the Neihu Line.
Critics blame Ma for choosing a medium-capacity system for the Neihu Line, which they say is insufficient.
At a separate setting, Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said Ma was not responsible for the decision on capacity. That decision was made by the Executive Yuan in 1993, when the Neihu Line was first approved for construction, Wang said.
Wang said that because of the narrow streets in Neihu, the central government at the time concluded that it would be difficult to build an underground line with a high capacity rate, which is what the Taipei City Council had wanted.
Wang said there was a stalemate between the central government and Taipei City Council for eight years, which ended when Ma helped resolve the quagmire with a compromise to build a medium capacity, elevated railway.
“One thing is certain: Had the government decided to build an underground, high-capacity line, the Neihu Line would still be under construction, with no end in sight. Even if we had spent NT$100 billion, the line would still not be done,” the Presidential Office spokesman said.
DPP BLAMES MA
But the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) blamed Ma for making decisions during his tenure as mayor that directly led to the current problems.
The Neihu Line was integrated with the Muzha Line, whose main contractor was a French company, Matra.
Critics say combining the lines was too ambitious and caused unnecessary difficulties resulting in several malfunctions.
DPP spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) yesterday asked prosecutors to investigate the technical problems, adding that the DPP Taipei City Council caucus would file a lawsuit against Hau and Ma.
Cheng said the construction of the Neihu Line accounted for 45 percent of the project’s budget, while the electronic control system accounted for the remaining 55 percent.