In remarks following his resignation yesterday, Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said that the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC) is doomed to go bankrupt, adding it could happen as soon as the beginning of next year.
“I think it is the only option. It is only matter of time before the company officially declares bankruptcy. We have missed the opportunity to turn the tide,” he said.
Yeh said the government must ensure that the high-speed rail system can continue to operate, but the THSRC is in the meantime facing pressure from banks seeking to claim the interest on their loans to the company. A government takeover is probably the only way out of the quagmire, he added.
As for the endless questions as to whether ticket prices would be cut, Yeh said sarcastically that tickets could be available free of charge if the high-speed rail system becomes state-run.
Yeh reiterated the dire consequences of a government takeover of the high-speed rail system, adding that the government, the public and THSRC shareholders would all lose if that came about.
“When I became the minister of transportation and communications, my mission was to fix the financial problems facing the high-speed rail operator,” Yeh said. “It was a pity that I did not get it done, but you cannot expect everything to go your way. You just have to accept the fact that you cannot do it.”
It was predicted the THSRC would go bankrupt in March, having liabilities of NT$452.8 billion (US$14.58 billion) and accumulated operational losses of NT$47 billion as of June.
Yeh said his other regret as a minister was not being able to see the Taoyuan Aerotropolis project materialized, one of the flagship programs of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) “i-Taiwan 12 public construction projects.”
Asked about his plans, Yeh said he has decided to return to National Sun Yat-Sen University to teach, even if he is asked by the government to stay on in some capacity.
“I am honored to serve the nation and I am glad I have accomplished something as a minister. For that, I have no regrets,” he said, adding that government officials should understand that they might have step down at any time.
The 57-year-old politician became minister after his predecessor, Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國), was appointed vice premier. Yeh was the deputy minister at the time.
Besides the financial problems facing the THSRC and the Taoyuan Aerotropolis, Yeh also did not resolve the compensation issue of the former freeway toll fee collectors, who lost their jobs after the nation launched a distance-based electronic toll-collection system.
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