Sat, Aug 04, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Kaohsiung's light rail system plan runs into opposition

TAKE THE BUS City councilors said that light rail systems were no longer popular overseas and building a bus system would be much cheaper

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

The Kaohsiung City Government's plan to build a light rail system to complement its mass rapid transit system has met strong opposition, with most city council members favoring a bus rapid transit system.

The Cabinet approved a plan submitted by the Kaohsiung City Government in early 2004 to build a light rail system. The Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit Bureau is working on a 19.6km light rail circular route budgeted at NT$11.4 billion (US$345.83 million), with 75 percent of the funds coming from central government subsidies.

Kaohsiung City Council Speaker Chuang Chi-wang (莊啟旺), of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), said on Thursday that light rail systems were no longer embraced by cities in other countries as the centerpiece of their regional transportation systems.

The light rail system also contradicts the city's goal of moving underground all electric wires and cables in the city, he said.

Chuang recommended that the city adopt a "bus rapid transit" (BRT) system instead. His suggestion was supported by a large number of city councilors.

BRT refers to a high-quality bus service that is comparable to rail transit but with lower fares. While the cost for constructing a light rail system is estimated at NT$600 million per kilometer, the cost for a BRT system would only be a fraction of that, at NT$60 million per kilometer.

Wang Kuo-tsai (王國材), director of the Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit Bureau, acknowledged the convenience that a BRT system can provide, but said that the light rail system could coexist with a BRT system.

Huang Shu-mei (黃淑美), a Democratic Progressive Party city councilor, said there was no reason for Kaohsiung to abandon a light rail project that has already been approved by the central government.

She said that she supports the light rail project because it would be pollution-free and environmentally friendly.

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