Legislature asks THSRC to abolish planned fare hike
CNATAIPEI -- Several lawmakers on Thursday threw their support behind a proposal to demand the government halt fare hikes on the high-speed railway, one day after a resolution in the Legislature failed to convince the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. (THSRC).
October 4, 2013, 12:17 am TWN
The proposal, sponsored by the Kuomintang's Lin Kuo-cheng, required the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC) to stop the price hikes set for Oct. 8, threatening to withdraw its guarantee from THSRC's bank loans.
The consequences for failing to do so would be a block of the MOTC's budget review in the Legislature.
The Kuomintang's Chen Hsueh-sheng and the Democratic Progressive Party's Tsai Chi-chang and Yeh Yi-jin, among others, have thrown their support behind the proposal.
At a questioning session with the Legislature's transportation subcommittee, MOTC Minister Yeh Kuang-shih said that the price hike is necessary because THSRC's finances are not as healthy as they seem.
The company started showing net profits in 2011 after several years of operational deficits, but Yeh said the situation remains stark for the company because of its various debts.
THSRC is within its rights to raise prices under its contract with the ministry, he pointed out, adding that it already began preselling tickets under the new pricing and discount scheme last month, complicating any potential move to keep the former prices.
The Kuomintang's Lin Ming-chen argued that the company should take into account its recent profits and the economic pressures on regular citizens, urging the board of directors to hold another discussion on fare prices.
On Wednesday, THSRC Chairman Ou Chin-der told a Legislative hearing that the company is obligated to follow the board's decision to raise prices, as is stipulated in the Company Act.
THSRC was granted the right to operate the nation's only high-speed railway for 35 years in a 1998 build-operate-transfer contract signed with the ministry.
The planned fair hikes will see prices rise by 7.1-9.6 percent, meaning a one-way trip from Taipei in the north to Zuoying in the south will jump to NT$1,630 from the current NT$1,490.
THSRC has made efforts to offset the impact by promoting “early bird” discounts for tickets booked in advance.