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Taiwan's high-speed rail unlikely to open on schedule: reports.

TAIPEI, Oct. 19 Kyodo

Taiwan appears unlikely to beat the deadline to inaugurate its first high-speed railway linking the capital Taipei and the southern city of Kaohsiung in late October due to a delay in the examination process, local media reported Thursday.

The opening of the long-awaited bullet train service adopting Japan's Shinkansen technology may not materialize until the middle of next month, local papers said.

To begin operations, the system reportedly needs to correct various technical problems listed in a comprehensive safety verification report due for release Friday and meet operational requirements during this weekend's test-runs overseen by the Ministry of Transportation and Communication.

Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp., operator of the system, noted that even after getting the government approval, it plans to begin a period of trail operations first before commencing revenue service.

''During the trail operations, the company will provide free rides for limited numbers of passengers first to improve public understanding of the railway,'' the China Times quoted THSRC Chief Executive Officer Ou Chin-der as saying. Ou did not specify how long the trial operations will last.

In September 2005, THSRC announced a one-year delay in the launch, which triggered deep concerns over problematic adjustment of the Japanese Shinkansen bullet train system to European specifications.

The company decided in 1997 to adopt a European railway system combining German locomotives and French double-decker passenger cars, but changed the decision in late 1999 and instead awarded a Japanese consortium of seven companies priority rights to negotiate the contract.

The consortium then won the contract to operate the core system of the railway, including rolling stock, electrification, and signaling systems, with the specifications based on European standards still remaining unrevised.

THSRC recently said it was still making last-ditch efforts to conquer problems plaguing the unprecedented hybrid system, including the need for better trained drivers.

It is expected that with the completion of the approximately US$15 billion project, the north-south journey time will be greatly shortened from several hours to within 90 minutes.
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Publication:Japan Transportation Scan
Date:Oct 23, 2006
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