Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuan-shih (葉匡時) yesterday said that ticket prices for high-speed rail services, as well as regular train services provided by the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA), would not be raised this year, adding that domestic airfares would also not be adjusted before September.
Yeh made the statements at the legislature’s Transportation Committee, where he was briefing lawmakers about the adjustment of ticket prices in transport systems overseen by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, as well as what the ministry would do following the suspension of high speed rail services caused by a malfunctioning signaling system on Thursday last week.
“I have talked with chairman Ou [Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC) chairman Ou Chin-der (歐晉德)] and the company is entitled to raise ticket prices based on its contract with the government,” Yeh said. However, “considering the public perception about its operations at the moment, it’s better not to talk about this matter [raising ticket prices] now.”
Ou said that the ministry had approved a proposed basic rate increase from NT$3.655 per kilometer to NT$4.009 per kilometer.
“We would have to consider several factors before making any adjustments to ticket prices, including the system’s operational costs, competitive aspects, passenger demand and the overall economic environment,” Ou said.
Both the TRA and the Directorate General of Highways (DGH) said that the state-run railway service, as well as highway bus operators, have no plans to raise ticket prices now.
The Civil Aeronautic Administration (CAA), on the other hand, recently proposed increasing domestic airfares by between 6 percent and 35 percent, given that oil prices have more than doubled since 2004.
Yeh said that he has yet to see the new rates proposed by the CAA, but that no adjustments would be made before September.
The Tourism Bureau said that it is planning to start charging travelers entrance fees to several of the nation’s scenic spots this year, including Guishan Island (龜山島) off the coast of Yilan and the Liangshan Rest Area (涼山遊憩區) in the Maolin National Scenic Area Administration in Greater Kaohsiung.
Travelers to the island would be charged NT$100, while those visiting the Liangshan Rest Area would have to pay NT$50.
Meanwhile, lawmakers expressed dissatisfaction about how THSRC handled last week’s service suspension.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lu Chia-cheng (盧嘉辰) said that the company only informed passengers about the suspension of services during the incident, but it did not assist them in transferring to other forms of transport.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said that the company had had about 1,600 operational incidents in the past six years, and one-third of them were mechanical errors. He questioned whether company had failed to tighten its operations.
KMT Legislator Lin Kuo-cheng (林國正) said the company had communication problems with the ministry and the Bureau of High Speed Rail (BHSR).
“The company began to suspend services at 6:30am. The BHSR director general did not know about the incident until around 6:20am and the ministry was not informed about the incident until 6:40am. Do you see what the problem was? The ministry was behind the passengers in knowing about this incident,” Lin said.
Ou apologized for any inconvenience caused to the public because of the incident, adding that the company had been in contact with the Japanese manufacturer of the signaling system to identify the cause of the problem.