Mon, Oct 08, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Wu Hong-mo to address Transportation Committee

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Minister of Transportation and Communications Wu Hong-mo (吳宏謀) is to explain his stance on some of the ministry’s major policies at his first briefing to the legislature’s Transportation Committee today after assuming the post in August.

The policies range from the Suhua Highway improvement project to a proposal to extend the high-speed rail system from Kaohsiung to Pingtung County.

Wu has tried to differentiate himself from his predecessor, Hochen Tan (賀陳旦), by signaling a change in the direction of some of the policies.

While Hochen had opposed waiving freeway toll fees on holidays to ease traffic congestion, Wu has told the media that the ministry “would not split hairs over this matter.”

Wu made good on that promise during last month’s Mid-Autumn Festival holiday, when the National Freeway Bureau introduced a pilot program to waive freeway toll fees from 6am to 3pm on the first and last days of the holiday.

Wu also differed from Hochen regarding improvements to the Suhua Highway (Highway No. 9), particularly on whether the ministry should improve the section between Dongao (東澳) and Nanao (南澳) townships in Yilan County and incorporate it into the Suhua project.

The section, which is about 12km long, is one of the highway’s most dangerous sections, as it has many corners.

Hochen had said that the ministry should not make any rash decisions about the section, as it was not part of the project when it was approved by an environmental impact assessment committee.

As traffic accidents on the section are not caused by landslides, the ministry should use traffic management rather than construction to improve road safety, Hochen said.

However, Wu said the government aims to give people on the nation’s east coast a safe road and should not ignore unsafe roads.

The ministry should assess the feasibility of building roads as proposed by local opinion leaders, he said.

Wu also has different opinions on proposals to extend the high-speed rail system to Pingtung and corporatize the state-run Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA).

An assessment by the Railway Bureau last year found that extending the high-speed rail system to Pingtung would have no financial benefits, regardless of whether it was built from Kaohsiung’s Zuoying District (左營) or Yanchao District (燕巢).

However, the bureau last week submitted a new report to the ministry, saying that the self-liquidation ratios for both options have greatly improved.

Hochen had intended to spend the second half of this year on a plan to increase TRA ticket prices, as they have not been adjusted for 23 years.

He had also asked the ministry to re-evaluate the possibility of corporatizing the agency.

Wu had said he planned to convince the Taiwan Railway Labor Union that a corporatized TRA would be key to ensuring that the agency could grow sustainably and workers’ interests would be protected.

However, last week he said that corporatization is not a panacea to solve the TRA’s problems.

“That is not to say that the ministry would stop considering this option. It is just that this is not the time to talk about privatizing the TRA and raising ticket prices, at least not for a year or two, because it requires many complementary measures,” Wu said.

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