Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) yesterday confirmed that the Airport Rail would not be launched in October as planned, adding that the government will seek compensation from the contractor for the construction delays.
The Airport Rail was originally scheduled to become operational by June. Marubeni Corp, the Japanese contractor for the rail’s electro-mechanical system, asked for an extension of the deadline to next year due to disputes with its subcontractor, but the Bureau of High Speed Rail, which oversees the rail line construction, only extended the deadline to October.
However, Yeh said that the contractor would fail to meet its deadline again.
“Judging from the situation, it is not possible for the rail to be completed by October and the official launch of the Airport Rail would have to be postponed,” Yeh said.
Yeh said that the ministry would seek compensation from the contractor if it misses the deadline this time. He said that the terms of the contract state that Marubeni would face a daily penalty of one-two thousandth of the NT$25 billion (US$840 million) construction cost, or NT$12.5 million a day.
The entire penalty could top NT$2.5 billion, he said, adding that the contractor is entitled to appeal. The penalty could be paid by deducting it from the payment due to the contractor after construction is complete, he said.
Asked when the Airport Rail could be launched, Yeh said that the ministry would determine that in one or two weeks.
Meanwhile, the delay in the Airport Rail construction made Yeh the target of criticism at the legislature’s Transportation Committee meeting yesterday, where he was scheduled to brief lawmakers about the budget for the Seaport Development Fund for the next fiscal year.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said that the ministry apparently has a problem executing the nation’s major construction projects efficiently, because it has failed to launch both the Wugu-Yangmei Overpass and Airport Rail on time.
Chinese National Party (KMT) Legislator Luo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) questioned how Marubeni secured the contract, saying it had questionable qualifications in the first place, and asked the ministry to investigate.
In response, Yeh said that it was regrettable that the Wugu-Yangmei Express could not become operational as scheduled. Regarding the Airport Rail, Yeh said that bureau has been actively addressing the problems with the contractor since they were found.
“We believe the contractors in the construction projects, including Marubeni, Kawasaki and Hitachi, will settle this problem as soon as possible to safeguard their reputations,” Yeh said, adding that the contract with Marubeni was signed before he took office.
Ministry of Transportation and Communications officials estimated that it might take from three months to almost a year to finish testing the system, which is about 51.3km long.
Should the Public Construction Commission determine that Marubeni was at fault, the Japanese contractor would be blacklisted and banned from bidding for public construction projects in Taiwan for one year, the officials said.