TAIWANESE Premier Yu Shyi-kun said last month that the government is to make available NT$100bn to Taiwan Railway Administration for upgrading its 1067mm gauge network. While TRA has not been seriously starved of funds (RG 3.01 p192), it is facing growing competition, not just from roads, but also from the standard gauge railway now rapidly taking shape parallel to its own tracks in the prime inter-city corridor between Taipei and Kaohsiung.
When construction of Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp's 346 km high speed line was getting underway in 2001, the government was equivocal about whether the two organisations should co-operate or compete. Yu's comment to local media last month that TRA 'must revive and transform itself in order to accommodate the operation of the Taiwan high speed railway' does little to clarify the position. With THSRC due to launch in October 2005, and the first Japanese-built trains derived from the Series 700 design scheduled for delivery early next year, TRA would clearly find it helpful to know precisely where it stands. In the past it has been particularly concerned about loss of capacity in Taipei, where two tracks in the important four-track cross-city tunnel have been turned over to accommodate the THSRC alignment.
If it is indeed to lose a hefty slice of its west coast traffic, TRA may need to turn its attention to the east coast, where an upgrading and electrification programme has been in hand for some years (p526). Much faster access between the capital and the east coast would be possible if plans go ahead for a cut-off across the island's northeast corner through the mountains to Chiao-hsi on the I Lan line. The concept was put forward some time ago, and the government has now confirmed the feasibility of such a scheme. During a visit to the area last month, Yu said that the cabinet is studying whether the project could go forward under a build-operate-transfer arrangement. Cost of the scheme is put at nearly NT$60bn, with work likely to start in 2006.