Thu, Oct 18, 2007 - Page 2 News List

High speed rail's reservation-free scheme questioned

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Bureau of High Speed Rail Director-General Pang Jia-hua (龐家驊) said yesterday that the bureau had yet to approve the Taiwan High Speed Rail Co's (THSRC) proposal to let passengers board any train without reserving seats.

Pang said the bureau was also unlikely to allow THSRC to offer a NT$100 discount on commuter travel, as it would take commuter business away from the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) and did not fit the company's role as a long-distance carrier.

"The high speed rail should be used to carry long-distance travelers, whereas the TRA is mainly in charge of commuter transport and short-distance travelers," Pang said. "There will most assuredly be confusion if the THSRC starts servicing short-distance travelers."

Pang made the comments after the Chinese-language Apple Daily reported yesterday that the THSRC was mulling offering a discount scheme for short-distance travelers.

The report said the discount would reduce the cost of a high speed rail ticket from Hsinchu to Banciao (板橋) to NT$160, making it cheaper to take the high speed rail than a TRA Tzuchiang Express, which charges NT$180 for the same trip.

Pang said that the bureau would create a taskforce to review the proposal, adding that the company still needs to work out some complementary measures before the proposal could become reality.

Pang said the high speed rail stations must be equipped with facilities and signs guiding passengers to the designated cars.

Pang added that the company must also solve problems such as refunds for train delays, as the tickets show neither the boarding time nor the train number.

Bureau Deputy Director-General Hu Hsiang-ling (胡湘麟) raised questions about the special discount the THSRC intends to offer.

"Say a person is heading to Taichung. He could then take advantage of the offer and buy two tickets -- one from Taipei to Hsinchu and the other from Hsinchu to Taichung. That way, he could save more than he would if he bought a Taipei to Taichung ticket," Hu said.

As the company intends to increase the number of two-way runs to 113 next month, Hu said the bureau would also examine its ability to complete maintenance with a shortened timeframe.

THSRC spokesman Ted Chia (賈先德) said the special price offer could be based on the principle of increasing discounts, meaning the farther one travels, the greater the discount.

Chia said another option would be for the company to offer a 5 percent to 7 percent discount on all purchases.

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