TAIWAN’S Minister of Transport & Communications Lin Feng Cheng and Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp President Nita Ing signed the concession contract for construction of the 340 km Taipei - Kaohsiung high speed line on July 23. The signing had been delayed by four weeks after negotiations over land purchase and government responsibilities prevented a financial close on June 30.

Pending an arbitration ruling on the disputed issues, the Bureau of Taiwan High Speed Rail had threatened to resume negotiations with a rival Japanese-backed group. On July 9 the finance ministry announced that it had reached agreement with a consortium of Taiwanese and European banks over the funding structure for the US$12·6bn THSRC bid.

The build-operate-transfer concession allows five years for construction; putting the opening date at 2003. A key change in the final contract has extended the original 30-year period for operation to 35 years before the line is transferred to state ownership. In addition the consortium will pay 10% of annual revenues to the government over the concession. o