Sat, Mar 28, 2009 - Page 4 News List

TRA facing problems with purchases

TRAIN DELAY Japanese company Hitachi has failed to provide a quote for a batch of tilting train cars and the TRA may have to look elsewhere to obtain them

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) may have problems increasing the number of trains operating along the east coast as the manufacturer of the tilting Taroko Express (太魯閣號) trains has yet to quote a price for a second batch of train cars, a TRA official said yesterday.

The nation’s largest railway service had previously placed an order for 96 tilting train cars made by Hitachi Appliances, with the purchase expected to cost approximately NT$5.6 billion (US$166 million).

TRA deputy director-general Chang Ying-huei (張應輝) said that the tilting train system has been in operation in Japan for more than twenty years and was reliable. However, there were concerns that some passengers may feel uncomfortable when riding on the tilting trains.

As the tilting train system had never been used in Taiwan, the Council of Economic Planning and Development, the agency in charge of reviewing purchases by government organizations, suggested the deal be carried out in two stages.

The TRA initially purchased 48 train cars — six sets of trains — and purchased more after the initial batch had been in operation for about a year.

“You need at least six sets as a basic scale for operation,” Chang said. “They include the trains that are in operation as well as the backup ones when they need to go for maintenance.”

Chang said there had been no problems with the first batch of tilting train cars.

“We have utilized the capacity of these trains to the fullest,” he said.

Chang said he did not know why Hitachi was late in providing the quote.

While the TRA has other types of trains that could be used along the east coast, Chang said passengers would be better served with more tilting trains.

TRA director-general Frank Fan (范植谷) was quoted by the United Evening News as saying in a recent interview that the TRA may consider opening the bid to other interested manufacturers if it does not receive a quote from Hitachi by the end of this month.

Chang said the TRA can still wait until next week before making a final decision.

While Japan is experienced in making tilting trains for the TRA’s narrow gauge railway system, there are other countries that have the ability to do so, he said.

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