THIS MONTH is due to see the start of pre-construction works for the 345 km Taipei - Kaohsiung high speed line, paving the way for civil engineering to begin in earnest at the end of May. During January BOT concessionaire Taiwan High Speed Rail Consortium issued tender documents for the first four civil works contracts, with the winning bidders due to be announced at the end of March.

On January 22 THSRC President Nita Ing and Transport & Communications Minister Lin Feng-Chen confirmed that the new company was on course to complete a NT$25bn capitalisation increment by the end of February. Under the BOT deal, THSRC must raise NT$120bn to cover the gap between the government contribution of NT280bn and the total project cost estimated at NT$400bn. Ms Ing also said that the June 2003 target for completion of the line remained.

Construction will focus initially on the 60 km north of Kaohsiung, which will form a test track for the Eurotrain fleet being supplied by Siemens and Alstom. THSRC has appointed Mott MacDonald to undertake technical studies and prepare design specifications for 245 km of viaducts along the route. Civil works, stations, rolling stock, catenary, signalling, power supplies and trackwork will be procured in sequence to allow phased delivery as the project proceeds.