Tue, Oct 24, 2006 - Page 2 News List

PFP legislators fume over failed high-speed rail test

BREACH OF CONTRACT The lawmakers charged that THSRC has violated the terms of its BOT contract by twice postponing the launch of the high-speed rail

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The delayed launch of the nation's first bullet train has aroused the ire of lawmakers serving on the legislature's Transportation Committee, with some asking the Ministry of Transportation and Communications yesterday to either revoke the construction permit of Taiwan High Speed Rail Co (THSRC) or to terminate the build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract immediately.

"The contract has clearly indicated that the high-speed railway should have been launched in 2003, and the company would only be allowed to postpone the launch date once," People First Party (PFP) Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) said.

"THSRC has violated the terms of the contract as it has now delayed the operation twice," Liu said.

In response, Minister of Transportation and Communications Tsai Duei (蔡堆) said that the number of years that the high-speed railway would be allowed to operate would be reduced depending on how long the project's launch is delayed, which is a form of penalty for the company.

Tsao added that he would ask his staff to review the contract to determine if THSRC had indeed breached the terms of the contract.

The minister added that it would be impossible for the bullet train's service to be launched by the end of this month, given that THSRC has yet to obtain an Independent Verification and Validation Facility (IV&V) report and the final review meeting has yet to be held.

Wu Fu-hsiang (吳福祥), director-general of the Bureau of High Speed Rail, said at the meeting that the ministry has identified during an earlier inspection 58 items that needed to be improved before the train becomes operational. He said, however, the work would not be completed until next month.

PFP Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) criticized the bureau for failing to closely monitor the progress of the high-speed rail service.

"The contract said that trains will be operating at four-minute intervals, but the MOTC has agreed to let THSRC run trains at 55-minute intervals during its initial stage of operation," Lee said.

"If the ministry cannot require trains to operate every four minutes during the inspection period, we will never know if other problems might crop up as well," he said.

Lee questioned the qualifications of the foreign drivers hired to run the trains, as some have not yet obtained a government-issued license.

Tsai replied that about six Taiwanese drivers have already been licensed, and a total of 35 licensed drivers will be available by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, THSRC issued a statement yesterday defending its performance during the earthquake drill on Sunday. A train operating at 300kph, under emergency situations, will continue to slide for about 4km before it can come to a complete stop. The overall procedure will take 90 second, it said.

The statement also rebutted a story published in yesterday's Chinese-language United Daily News, which said that the Shinkansen in Japan can come to an immediate stop within three seconds during an earthquake.

"The story contradicts the law of physics," the statement said.

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