LAST MONTH was due to see the signing of an agreement between the Bureau of Taiwan High Speed Rail and the Chang Sheng International Development Co for construction of a 35 km rail link from Taipei to Chiang Kai-shek International Airport. Chang Sheng was selected as preferred bidder by the Ministry of Transport & Communications at the end of May. A build - operate - transfer concession is to be signed by the end of this year, paving the way for the line to open in 2003.

Chang Sheng is a subsidiary of Taichung real-estate developer Ever Fortune Business Group; the consortium also includes local banks and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The partners will hold equity worth US$470m, with the rest of the funding raised from local and international banks.

The group envisages building a four-track line with 15 stations, and developing four residential communities to generate local traffic. There would be a mix of commuter and express trains, with the non-stop service expected to take 38 min, at a fare of US$3·58. Traffic is estimated at 74000 passengers/day. The land developments are expected to generate 61% of the US$2·4bn total earnings over the 30-year concession. o