TAIWAN High Speed Rail Corp has finally conceded that it will not be opening its 345 km line for business this month.

Although trial running has made good progress, with 200 km/h attained at the end of August and engineers anticipating 300 km/h during October, THSRC Chairman Nita Ing was obliged to announce on September 8 that the board of directors had decided to reschedule the opening to October 31 2006. She blamed the delay on slow progress with construction, system testing and 'evaluation of overall operations'. Apologising 'to our shareholders and society for failing to reach the target', Ing told local media in Taipei that she was confident that 'we can abide by the new schedule'.

The delay will cost THSRC NT$19·3bn, taking the price of the project to NT$480bn, according to THSRC President George Liu. Much of the extra cost will consist of interest payments, but on top of this will come loss of revenue as the delay will eat into THSRC's 35-year concession period.

While tracklaying is complete (RG 9.05 p555), local reports indicated that by the end of July THSRC had finished only just over 60% of the core electrical and mechanical work. Here lies the crux of the matter: a long-standing dispute over the mix of technologies. An article in Japan's Asahi Shimbun on September 9 reported that 'Japanese technical staff have had many run-ins with European engineers who have remained in Taiwan as temporary technical staff of THSRC'. The paper cited a JR official saying 'we cannot take responsibility for safety after the inauguration if the systems are patchworked [with] a mixture of Japanese and European technology. Pure Japanese Shinkansen technology should be exported.'

There have been suggestions that THSRC will be seeking compensation from Taiwan Shinkansen Corp, but perhaps the biggest question is whether the new deadline will be met. No doubt something will happen in October next year, but we doubt if the line will be ready for full commercial service. As one local paper reported, THSRC needs at least two months of trial operation and five months for the line to be inspected by the government's High Speed Rail Bureau. That could delay the start of full commercial services until some time in 2007.