Lawmakers call for extension of rail to Pingtung

WISHFUL THINKING::The premier told a legislator that he should stop criticizing the infrastructure program if he wants the Taipei MRT to come to his constituency

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Sun, Oct 29, 2017 - Page 3

Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) on Friday urged Premier William Lai (賴清德) and Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) to attach high-level importance to assessments of extending the high-speed rail and Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) networks to Pingtung County.

The speaker made the remarks at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei following a question-and-answer session between Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清), Lai and Hochen.

Most Pingtung residents have moved out of the county, and its population is just more than 840,000, Su Chen-ching said.

Transportation is crucial to closing the gap between urban and rural development, Su Chen-ching said.

Pingtung residents have anticipated extensions that would bring the high-speed rail and Kaohsiung MRT networks to the county, Su Chen-ching said before presenting Lai with a poster that depicted the high-speed rail network reaching the county and expressing the hope that Lai would hang the poster on his office wall as a reminder of residents’ expectations.

Citing a Global Views Monthly report, which put the county’s competitiveness at No. 21 out of 22 cities and counties nationwide, Su Chen-ching said the lack of advanced transportation systems has hindered Pingtung’s development.

However, the lawmaker said the previous six premiers and four transportation ministers that he had questioned about stretching the railways southward had all equivocated, citing “timing” and “technical issues.”

The central government’s efforts to create public infrastructure in the south have been insufficient, causing a number of southern counties and municipalities to become less competitive than their northern counterparts, Lai said.

Hochen said that the ministry is in December to complete assessments of high-speed rail routes connecting Kaohsiung and Pingtung, while the possibility of building a high-speed rail station in the county has been included in assessments for projects under the Cabinet’s Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program.

The ministry has not ruled out extending the high-speed railway to Pingtung and would approach the assessments seriously, Hochen said.

Work to extend the Kaohsiung MRT’s orange line to Pingtung is underway, he said.

Not eligible to pose questions to the officials, Su Jia-chyuan, who is a former Pingtung County commissioner, said after the question-and-answer session that he wanted to impress on Lai and Hochen to take the issue “very, very, very seriously.”

Meanwhile, Lai on Friday told Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Luo Ming-tsai (羅明才) that he should stop criticizing the infrastructure program if he wants the Taipei MRT to be extended to his constituency.

During a question-and-answer session at the legislature, Luo lobbied the premier’s support for funding plans to extend the Taipei MRT to New Taipei City’s Shenkeng (深坑) and Shihding (石碇), both of which are in his constituency, to drive local economic development.

Lai said: “Legislator Luo, then you must stop attacking rail construction projects under the program. You cannot attack them while soliciting [funds].”

In response, Luo said that different situations call for different measures and that Lai, a former physician, should “treat different illnesses with different remedies.”