Tue, Jan 02, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Chen takes press on a bullet train ride, lauds BOT model

PRIDE The president praised the completion of the controversial system, saying it should generate economic benefits for the nation in the new year

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Flanked by Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC) chairwoman Nita Ing, left, President Chen Shui-bian yesterday gives the thumbs-up in front of a THSRC train as part of his inspection tour of the nation's first bullet train system.

PHOTO: CHIEN JUNG-FONG, TAIPEI TIMES

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday took the high-speed rail to personally endorse the nation's first bullet train system.

Chen led a coterie of reporters in taking the ride from Banciao (板橋) in Taipei County to Wujih (烏日) in Taichung County, and said he was confident that the system was better than Japan's Shinkansen and France's bullet train.

Likening the system's construction to giving birth, Chen said that although the system was not his baby, he was glad that it was delivered safely.

"Where there's a will, there's a way," Chen said. "We have gone through a lot of trouble over the past six years. No one is happier than I am because the system was completed during my term and is set to be operational on Jan. 5."

The construction contract was awarded not long before Chen was elected president in 2000, with construction commencing in the same year. It is Taiwan's and the world's largest build-operate-transfer (BOT) project with a price tag of NT$640 billion (US$19.57 billion).

Chen yesterday lauded the system for saving a lot of time and taxpayers' money because it was built under a BOT contract.

However, many people have criticized the BOT model, saying that it encourages corruption and collusion between contractors and politicians.

Although there is still much room for improvement, Chen urged the public to take a more positive view of the construction project.

Chen said that he expected the system to generate economic benefits in the new year and bring gains in the stock market.

Commenting on the color of the train's exterior, which is painted in white and orange, the president urged the public to refrain from politicizing the issue.

"White symbolizes purity and orange is an auspicious color. We did not ask them to change it to green," he said. "Politics is ephemeral, but [public] infrastructures are permanent and government policies will continue no matter who is in power. Color is not important because there is no political color in national construction projects."

Chen presented the operating license of the train he took to Wujih yesterday at the station. There will be 12 trains in operation when the service opens.

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