CONTRACTS were signed on January 12 for construction of the long-planned rail link between Taipei and Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport.

Taiwan's Bureau of High Speed Rail has awarded the project to a Japanese consortium of Marubeni, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Hitachi at an estimated cost of NT$25·5bn. Originally planned as a BOT concession, the line is now to be built using direct funding from the Ministry of Transport & Communications.

Kawasaki had been sole bidder in a previous tender opened at the end of September 2005, after which the government decided to reopen the bidding.

The 51·2 km line will provide a suburban service to Taoyuan county as well as a direct link to the airport. It will run west from central Taipei through the airport and then turn south to an interchange with TRA's West Coast main line at Chungli. There will be 19 stations in total. Journey time between the city centre and the airport is expected to be around 35min, with the trains running at a maximum speed of 110 km/h.

Work is expected to get underway this month, and the contractors hope to have the outer section between Chungli and an interchange with Taipei's Orange Line at Sanchong operational by March 2011. The final tunnelled section from Sanchong to Taipei Main Station is not now expected to be completed until August 2012, with full services starting by September 2013.