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High-speed rail to construct three new stations

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. (THSR) will spend roughly NT$7.5 billion to build new stations in Miaoli, Chunghua and Yunlin counties, the Cabinet said yesterday.

According to Bureau of High Speed Rail Director-General Ju Hsu, construction work in Yunlin, Miaoli and Changhua is slated to begin Jan. 15, Jan. 20 and Feb. 6 respectively, with operations hopefully ready to be launched in 2015.

Premier Sean Chen instructed the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) to thoroughly oversee the entire project, as all three will begin work by February, ensuring the construction will be of high quality and on schedule.

After the expansion, the high-speed rail will serve a total of 12 stops including Nangang. For the entire railway system's layout design, he requested related bureaus to take into consideration the time delays that will be created by the additional stops and the dispatching of new cars.

Ju said that after the addition of three stops, travel time between the first and last stations (from North to South of Taiwan) will increase by roughly half an hour. “But train schedules and which places to stop are adjustable,” he said.

“THSR will begin drafting the entire system's itinerary in the near future. We would not want the increase of stops to hurt the time of travel for passengers.”

As for lands that suffer subsidence, especially on the West Coast, Chen also ordered related ministries to implement effective measures that would strike a balance with environmental protection.

According to Ju, THSR has been suffering financial losses since 2009, with accumulated debt of NT$60.6 billion. He explained that the company is moving toward restructuring its finances in hopes of relieving some of the losses. For now, the company is using methods such as lowering interest rates and reducing the depreciation of expenses, he said.

Ju said that as THSR is a large, build-operate-transfer (BOT) project running mainly on the back of private investment, private entities should take responsibility for the losses.

THSR is one of the largest privately funded transport projects and is scheduled to be handed over to the government after 35 years of operation. Nevertheless, it suffered losses after three years of operation, in which some investors began requesting the government provide compensation.

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