The world is changing fast, and to keep up with the times, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications needs to innovate to enable sustainable development.
The Greek word koinonia means “communion” and “fellowship,” and describes the spirit of what Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) is trying to achieve with his policy of a “people-oriented traffic environment” and the slogan: “Here to Connect.”
Lin is proposing to reform traffic through artificial intelligence automation, 5G technologies, driverless vehicles and big data, to achieve a safe, efficient, high-quality and environmentally friendly traffic environment.
To ensure that these concepts and goals are achieved, Lin should put all his efforts in three major areas. If he can pull these off, then he would achieve an epoch-making political success story.
First, he should push for the privatization of the nation’s railroads. The century-old Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) is in dire need of an overhaul.
To avoid another accident such as the Puyuma derailment, the most efficient solution would be to privatize the TRA. Only then will it be possible for it to run an efficient service in which safety is prioritized.
There are plenty of successful cases of privatization in Taiwan and abroad. One such domestic example would be Taiyen Biotech Co, formerly known as Taiwan Salt Industrial Corp. After Taiyen was privatized in 1995, its operations were diversified and it began producing high-quality, affordable products, and has become highly competitive in its market.
Former Japanese prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone’s administration proposed a reform package for the state-owned Japanese railroad operator Japanese National Railways, which was steeped in debt, setting his transport minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka on the task of restructuring the company.
Mitsuzuka broke the company up into into six regional rail companies and one freight company under the name Japan Railways Group (JR).
The more efficient and flexible operation of the individual post-privatization JR regional companies, together with the sale of the nationalized assets, enabled the government to pay off the company’s debts. The considerable success of the privatization of Japan’s national railroad is still talked of in Japan.
Second, Lin should relocate Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.
Three decades ago, former transportation minister Eugene Chien (簡又新) made a proposal, based on flight safety considerations, diversification of risk and urban planning in then-Taipei City, that Songshan airport be relocated to Taoyuan.
According to the proposal, the Legislative Yuan and Executive Yuan would have moved to the site vacated by Songshan airport, with a part being left for a forest park, while other sections would have been used for the construction of youth social housing and luxury accommodations for diplomats in a bid to attract rich and powerful residents.
Finally, Lin should stop the Taipei-Yilan high-speed rail extension construction. The extension is far from pressing, would cost more than NT$100 billion (US$3.46 billion) and take at least 10 years to complete, not to mention the environmental cost of its construction. It makes little sense in terms of economic efficiency, environmental protection or sustainable development, and the brakes need to be applied to the idea.
Lawrence Chien is an English and Japanese-speaking guide.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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