Thu, Sep 24, 2009 - Page 2 News List

MOTC defends estimates for high-speed rail

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Stung by criticism that its projections of high-speed rail traffic in the 1990s were too optimistic, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said yesterday the conditions were different when the projections were made.

Former Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC) chairwoman Nita Ing (殷琪) said in a recent interview with CommonWealth Magazine that passenger traffic estimates for the system had been overly optimistic to make it more appealing to investors.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) said yesterday that projections generally differ from actual figures and that THSCR adopted one of five estimates ordered by the government when it made its bid.

In the initial planning for the high speed rail project, when the government was thinking of building the line on its own, a French consultant it hired estimated the line would carry an average of 180,000 passengers per day, Mao said.

Since Taipei’s Songshan Domestic Airport was handling 15 million passengers a year at the time, many of whom were flying between Taipei and Kaohsiung, the government asked four other consultants to provide high-speed rail estimates.

The forecast by the French consultant eventually turned out to be the most conservative, with the others projecting passenger traffic of up to 360,000 passengers a day on average, Mao said.

All five projections were given to companies who bid on the rail project, and THSRC adopted the 180,000 per day figure after taking into account conditions in 1997.

Actual passenger traffic, however, has lagged far behind those forecasts, at around 80,000 passengers per day, making it difficult for THSRC to cover the high debts and interest payment burden that came with building the line.

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