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Renewed bids to be held for delayed airport MRT section

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The fourth round of bids will be held within two weeks for the extended section of the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport Access MRT System (commonly known as Taoyuan International Airport MRT), after the third-round bids were tossed out on April 30, the Bureau of High Speed Rail under said yesterday.

The qualifications and terms of the current round will remain unchanged as those set in the previous bidding, with the final bidding to be held on May 17, said Chang Wu-hsun, deputy director of the bureau.

Chang said if a clear winner emerges in the upcoming bids, the extended section, spanning 2 kilometers from Zhongli Station to the Zhongli Railway Station, would up and running by the end of 2019, 18 months behind the original schedule.

Chang said that construction of the extended section, approved by the Executive Yuan in April 2010, was originally slated to break ground in December 2012 and be completed in June 2018.

But since the bid was first held in mid-October 2012, the project had been pulled three times because not enough contractors had showed up.

Chang acknowledged that the postponement of the bids was due mainly to would-be contractors taking a wait-and-see attitude amid the lingering disputes among the MRT's electrical-engineering contractor Marubeni Corp. of Japan and its subcontractors. The disputes have delayed the progress of the non-extended Taoyuan International Airport MRT, which was originally slated to become operational in June this year.

Currently, the non-extended MRT system starts from Taoyuan International Airport Passenger Terminal II, running northward to reach the Taipei Main Station district, and running southward, via HSR Taoyuan Station, to the junction of Jhongfeng Road and Huangbei Road in Zhongli City. The total length is 51.03km along with a total of 22 stations, with total construction budget set at NT$113.85 billion.

Meanwhile, Transportation and Communications Minister Yeh Kuang-shih said yesterday he is set to announce the schedule for the official operation of the airport MRT system (excluding the extension) after meeting with Premier Jiang Yi-huah yesterday.

The airport MRT system was originally set for official run starting in June this year, but the Japanese electrical-engineering contractor Marubeni Corp. requested an extension of the engineering schedule. The Bureau of High Speed Rail finally agreed to a four-month extension.

As lingering disputes between Marubeni and its subcontractors continued to undermine construction, the bureau confirmed earlier that the airport MRT system would unlikely be operational even after the fourth-month extension expires at the end of October.

Yeh yesterday told reporters that the Bureau of High Speed Rail will move to claim compensation from Marubeni for related losses caused by the firm's failure to stick to the original construction set in the contract.

The disputes were already settled at the end of March, and what counts most is that the Bureau of High Speed Rail has asked Marubeni to speed up its timetable for construction, Yeh continued.

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