The government has neither assessed the possibility nor estimated the cost of building an “around-the-nation high-speed rail network,” Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) told lawmakers at a meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee in Taipei yesterday.
Wang was due to brief the committee on the ministry’s budget for the next fiscal year, but he faced questions about his vision of people traveling around the nation on a high-speed rail network, which he mentioned at the legislature on Tuesday.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) on Tuesday said that the government is assessing the possibility of extending the high-speed rail line from Kaohsiung’s Tsoying District (左營) to Pingtung County’s Chaojhou Township (潮州).
Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times
The government is planning to build two high-speed rail extension lines — from Taipei’s Nangang District (南港) to Yilan and from Kaohsiung’s Tsoying District to Pingtung County’s Liukuaicuo Station (六塊厝), Wang said.
“We see from the example of Japan’s Shinkansen system that the express service from Kyushu to Hokkaido would not be possible if there was no space reserved for an extension line to Hokkaido at a terminal station in Honshu. Likewise, the new high-speed rail stations in Yilan and Pingtung must also reserve spaces for extension lines. If more extension lines are then proposed, we would be able to build one section at a time and an around-the-nation high-speed rail network could take shape,” he said.
However, any proposed extension line would have to be carefully assessed by experts, he added.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hung Meng-kai (洪孟楷) asked if the ministry has allocated a budget for the next fiscal year to conduct a feasibility study on an “around-the-nation high-speed rail system.”
He also asked Wang for an estimate of how much his dream would cost, given that the extension line between Nangang and Yilan is to cost NT$170 billion (US$6.11 billion) and the one from Kaohsiung to Pingtung is to cost NT$60 billion.
“Taipei is the only city in Taiwan that has two high-speed rail stations — Taipei Railway Station and Nangang — because there are 7 million residents in Taipei and New Taipei City. Does Pingtung have a large enough population to support two high-speed rail stations?” Hung asked.
As a minister, Wang is obligated to tell the public how he plans to fulfill his vision, rather than spouting some irresponsible remarks, Hung said.
The ministry is about to begin researching the relevant issues, Wang said, adding that government officials need to set goals that they must achieve.
Meanwhile, Taiwan People’s Party Legislator Andy Chiu (邱臣遠) asked when the ministry would begin constructing a mass rapid transit system line between Taipei and Keelung, after the cost of the project has risen from an estimated NT$8 billion in 2017 to NT$42.5 billion.
Chiu asked if the funding would even be sufficient to build a 16.5km line connecting Nangang and Badu (八堵) in Keelung’s Nuannuan District (暖暖) as a first stage, considering that the Taipei MRT’s Brown Line cost NT$65 billion, more than twice the amount approved by the Executive Yuan.
The government would need an additional NT$7 billion if the light rail line is to be extended from Badu to Keelung Railway Station, Wang said, adding that the line would be constructed on an overpass.
“We have reached a consensus with Keelung Mayor Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) to build the rail line from Nangang to Badu first. Passengers transferring to Taiwan Railways Administration’s [TRA] Keelung Station would need to change trains at Badu at the initial stage. If Keelung residents prefer the MRT system to TRA services, we would then decide if we should keep the TRA line,” Wang said.
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