Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) yesterday said the ministry hopes that the Airport Rail service can be launched sometime before October next year, adding that even that was a challenging goal.
Yeh made the statement in an interview with Voice of Taipei program host Clara Chou (周玉蔻) in the morning.
The ministry under Yeh’s leadership came under severe criticism recently for failing to meet its self-designated deadlines for major public construction projects it has led, including the Wugu-Yangmei Overpass and the Airport Rail. It was also blamed for traffic congestion on freeways during the Tomb Sweeping holiday last week.
Yeh said that the ministry had already postponed the official launch of the Airport Rail from June this year to October next year.
An issue with Marubeni Corp, which is in charge of construction of the Airport Rail’s electromechanical systems, could cause the ministry to postpone the launch again, he said.
“The ministry cannot accept the official operation date proposed by Marubeni,” Yeh said. “Our hope is that the system will not be delayed for too long. It would be great if the system could be launched within one year of October, but that would be a challenging task.”
Yeh added that the Airport Rail’s electromechanical systems were built by Marubeni, Hitachi and Kawasaki.
He said that the ministry had asked Hitachi and Kawasaki, which are both technically strong, to help Marubeni overcome any issues, because all three would be blamed for any construction delays.
“We will determine if the new deadline for launching the Airport Rail proposed by Marubeni is practical and viable,” Yeh said. “We will not be messed around by Marubeni.”
Asked why the the contractor had been assigned the project, Yeh said the contract was signed in 2006 and the ministry could now only enforce the terms of the contract even it was imperfect. He said that investigations by prosecutors had found no evidence that Marubeni had been assigned the contract illegally, but he said that there was room for improvement in terms of contractor selection.
Regarding freeway congestion during the Tomb Sweeping holiday, Yeh said that he would not censure National Freeway Bureau Director-General Tseng Dar-jen (曾大仁), even though he was responsible for supervising the bureau.
“I hope that government workers can be proactive,” he said. “Doling out punishment constantly would only cause them to have a mentality of ‘the less one does, the fewer mistakes one makes.’”
He also paraphrased late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher regarding consensus and decisionmaking, saying, “I am not making decisions based on consensus, but on my beliefs.”
“As a leader, you should have values and beliefs,” he added. “It is simply irresponsible to respond to public criticism by simply giving someone a demerit.”
Yeh also said that Tseng is qualified to lead the bureau because he has produced results in the past.