Tue, Apr 25, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Japanese media train report blasted

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications lashed out yesterday at a news report by Asahi Shimbun on Sunday that criticized the Taiwan High Speed Rail Co (THSRC) for using Japanese technology but hiring French drivers for the trains.

Deputy Minister of Transportation Ho Nuan-hsuan (何煖軒), who is also the acting chief of Taiwan Railway Administration, questioned the Japanese media's motives, saying that they always seemed to release negative coverage of Taiwan's "Shinkansen," or bullet train, around the time that construction or testing milestones were achieved.

"I can even give you a table comparing the times when Japanese media published [negative] reports on Taiwan's Shinkansen and the times when THSRC achieved milestones," Ho said.

Ho gave several examples, including coverage of sinkages in Yunlin and Miaoli Counties when THSRC was about to test-drive the rail system at 200kph.

Ho said that Central Japan Railway Co (also known as JR Central), which is in charge of the technical transfer and maintenance training for Taiwan's high speed rail system, was reluctant to allow Taiwanese drivers to operate the trains.

"What is the point when [Taiwanese drivers] can only observe and can never operate the trains themselves?" Ho said.

Ho said that THSRC must carry on, and cannot afford a delay of another two to three years simply because the drivers lack training.

Ho also suggested that the lack of trained drivers was the main reason why the Japanese media had claimed that the THSRC might have to postpone its official launch again.

"We have to survive," Ho said. "We will bear the loss if we cannot operate as scheduled."

Ho added that the majority of the bullet train tracks had been constructed by the Japanese companies, except the Taipei-Banciao (板橋) section which was built by an Australian firm. Ho emphasized that this is the first time that Japan has exported its bullet train technology, and suggested that negative media coverage in fact hurt Japan.

"I wonder what the report was trying to say," Ho said, "Is the joke on Japan or on Taiwan?"

Ho said that he supported THSRC's decision to take a "tough stand" by hiring European drivers to resolve the issue of personnel training.

"Taiwan will be working with JR on a long-term basis, not the Europeans. I hope that THSRC and JR will resume their cooperation as in the past," he said.

Ho also reiterated yesterday that the bullet train will be launched as planned in October.

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