TAIWANESE Transport Minister Kuo Yao-chi has put her political career on the line, promising to step down if Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp fails to launch services in October - a year later than planned. It seems likely that some trains will run, but the minister was careful not to pledge the start of a full service over the 346 km route between Taipei and Kaohsiung.

The final section that runs in tunnel from Panchiao into central Taipei is unlikely to be ready before January 2007, forcing passengers to use the metro or TRA services to travel to and from the city centre.

Kuo Yao-chi has come under pressure from fellow politicians over her handling of delays to two TRA projects. One is the station at Wurih near Taichung, which will provide interchange with THSRC services. Wang Shih-chien of the Democratic Progressive Party called last month for the minister’s resignation, reducing her to tears in a Transport Committee meeting on May 8.

As if that were not enough, the ministry has uncovered what appear to be unfair practices over rolling stock procurement at TRA. Three contracts worth a total of NT$17bn have been suspended - one is for 316 suburban cars and the others cover 20 diesel and 30 electric locomotives.