THSR head apologizes for Legislature no-show

By Joy Lee ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR) Chairman Ou Chin-der yesterday apologized to legislators for his absence from Monday’s Legislative Yuan Transportation Committee meeting in which legislators demanded that THSR hold off on a ticket price increase that is scheduled for Oct. 8.

According to THSR, the ticket price adjustment, which was meant to increase revenue for the cash-strapped firm — and would increase the cost of a round-trip ticket from Taipei to Kaohsiung by up to NT$280 — will officially be launched on Oct. 8 along with more early bird discounts.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lee Kun-tse said that ticket prices are not what caused THSR to face its current financial difficulties, but rather a decline in average occupancy rates on trains. “THSR should work on increasing the average occupancy rate of trains and providing more off-peak traveling time discounts before considering increasing the ticket price,” Lee said.

Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Lin Kuo-cheng said that THSR has been making profits after taxes since 2011, and considering the poor domestic economy, the firm should not increase the ticket prices at this time.

Ou said that the price increase proposal was approved at the firm’s board, so the policy has to be carried out according to regulations.

“Raising ticket prices is a painful decision for THSR,” Ou said, adding that “the cost of maintaining safety and construction is high, and in order to allow the firm to continuously operate it is necessary to increase the ticket prices.”

According to Ou, even though THSR has made profits in the past two years, the company is still mired in a nearly NT$60 billion deficit.

“The most difficult challenge now is that the depreciation period is too short, which forces the company to operate at higher costs,” Ou said.