Lawmakers in the legislature's Transportation Committee yesterday questioned the legitimacy of the Taiwan Railway Administration's (TRA) plan to amend the Railway Law (鐵路法) in order to sell its properties and branch out into other types of business operations.
"The TRA seems to try to cover everything," Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wang Yu-ting (王昱婷) said. "It plans to sell national assets cheaply to the private sector."
Some lawmakers, on the other hand, criticized the administration for presenting only its own version of the amendment and trying to persuade the legislators to pass the bill immediately.
It failed to present ideas from the Executive Yuan and other administrative authorities for the sake of comparison, they said.
Others lashed out at the administration for the poor railway service it offers and said whether it has the adequate capacity to operate other types of business was questionable.
TRA Director General Chen Feng-nan (陳峰男) said yesterday that the administration currently owns more than 5,000 hectares of land along the railway lines, with a market value reaching NT$560 billion (US$17.5 billion).
Approximately 193 hectares are deemed to have high development potential.
"But currently the land does not help generate much revenue because of the legal restrictions," he said.
The meeting concluded with lawmakers asking the administration to turn in detailed reports on all the properties it owns and how this is used.
Meanwhile, the administration was required to present all the preparations it has done so far to operate other types of businesses.
Over the years, the nation's oldest state-run institution has been trying to take advantage of its properties and to transform them into profit-making concerns as a way to liberate itself from a debt-ridden financial condition.
However, the plan has been obstructed by lawmakers as well as government organizations.
Former acting director general Ho Nuan-hsuen (
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