Wed, Apr 19, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Ko says ‘mid-ring’ line unprofitable

DELUSIONS OF EARNINGS:The Taipei mayor said that it has been the nature of infrastructure projects for local governments to overestimate rail systems’ self-liquidity

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Operations of the “mid-ring” line on a planned Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) ring line through Taipei and New Taipei City are bound to cause losses, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) told a news conference yesterday, urging the New Taipei City Government to specify how much of a subsidy it plans to pay to offset the losses.

Asked to respond to the New Taipei City Government’s request that he propose a solution to the losses expected when three intercity MRT rail lines become operational so that a budget can be requested from funds allocated by the Cabinet’s Forward-looking Infrastructure Construction Project, Ko said overestimating a rail line’s earnings is a common problem.

The central government would not allow a rail line to be built if the line cannot pay for itself, Ko said.

While margins of error are inevitable, local governments have consistently overestimated the self-liquidity of rail lines to pass central government reviews, he said.

This has led to ridership and profit estimates being fudged to such an extent that the actual profits after the lines become operational are about 50 percent of forecasts, he said.

Profits from land development along rail lines are also overly opimistic, as local governments cannot forcibly conduct development, which is another reason for the deficits plaguing MRT lines, Ko said.

“Except for the first five MRT lines, how many lines have managed to make ends meet? How much cash flow is the Taoyuan International Airport MRT line generating?” Ko said.

Asked if his relations with New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) have become so strained that he has not been able to hold discussions with Chu, Ko said no.

However, the New Taipei City Government should adopt a forthright attitude on the matter and acknowledge the problem before discussions can be initiated between the municipalities’ transportation agencies, he added.

Although both his and Chu’s terms would be over by the time the mid-ring line is opened, they should be able to have the foresight to have their transportation officials negotiate how much each city will pay to keep the line afloat, Ko said.

With the nation’s population continuing to shrink, the hourly ridership of the proposed ring line is unlikely to reach 1,200, meaning it would be unnecessary to build it, as roads are readily available and serve their purpose well, Ko said.

Although on Facebook he criticized Keelung’s effort to win central government funds to build a light rail system, Ko said he was not against the proposal.

“Building rail lines is, sometimes, a Taiwanese myth,” the mayor said.

Keeling should not focus all its attention on a light rail system, but consider how it could be integrated with other intercity transportation infrastructure, such as the Shijhih-Minsheng MRT line and the Nangang extension line, he told reporters.

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