Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) yesterday said the nation’s two railway systems would not increase their ticket prices this year, despite rising fuel and electricity costs.
Mao made the statement at a meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee in response to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lu Chia-chen (盧嘉辰) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌), who had asked Mao to promise that the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) and Taiwan High Speed Railway Corp (THSRC), whose trains are powered by electricity, would not raise their ticket prices.
Tsai also asked that the two transporters shelve any plans to raise prices for a year.
DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) urged THSRC not to raise ticket prices until after the Lunar New Year holiday next year.
The company should let Taiwanese enjoy their holiday, she said.
“The TRA and THSRC do not have plans to raise ticket prices, at least from now until the end of this year,” Mao said.
DPP Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said THSRC should consider giving bigger discounts to passengers, particularly those purchasing non-reserved seats.
He said the government should provide stronger incentives if its wants people to use public transportation.
“It [THSRC] has produced a TV commercial touching everyone’s hearts, but we are not at all touched by the ticket prices it offers,” Lee said.
Mao said the ministry would ask THSRC if it could lower prices for non-reserved seats.
Representing a district in Taitung County, DPP Legislator Liu Chao-hao (劉櫂豪) said the ministry should also ask airlines to not increase airfares for domestic flights.
“When there was a fuel price rise in 2008, we noticed that traffic on the freeways went down drastically,” Mao said.
However, Mao said railways and aviation work differently, and all he could do was to ask the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) to review airfares.
Meanwhile, Tsai asked Mao to consider giving THSRC a longer concession period to help it solve its financial problems, so the company could quickly become a publicly traded company.
THSRC owns the exclusive rights to operate the high-speed rail for 35 years, including the years used to construct the system.
The company, which began operations in 2007, turned a profit of about NT$5.78 billion (US$195 million) for the first time last year. It nevertheless has debts of NT$67.7 billion.
Mao said the concession period was only one of the factors to be considered to solve the company’s financial problems.