TAIWAN’S government has decided to take responsibility for building three long-planned rail links to Chiang Kai-shek International Airport near Taipei. The change from promoting them as build-operate-transfer concessions was announced by President Chen Shui-bian on May 24 as part of an effort to boost the economy, which has been hit by the SARS epidemic.

The Ministry of Transportation & Communications will set a special budget to pay for the estimated NT$120bn package, and Minister Lin Ling-san said that by eliminating the bidding process, completion of the lines will be brought forward from 2010 to 2008.

Three routes serving the airport have planned for the past seven years. The first is a 36·9 km extension of the Taipei metro from Hsimen, costing NT$70bn. A 16 km branch off the north-south high speed line at Chingpu is to be built by October 2005, at a cost of NT$32bn. A third route will be created by rebuilding TRA’s 19·2 km Linkou - Taoyuan line to metro standards by 2006 for NT$17·3bn.

Vice-Minister of Transport & Communications Oliver Yu Monday said work on the metro extension would begin in June 2004, and it ’will be constructed by the government as part of its efforts to rejuvenate the economy’. Evertransit International withdrew from a BOT contract to develop an express rail link last December, after failing to raise the necessary funding. Second-placed BES Engineering Corp withdrew in April.