Fares cut for airport MRT line

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taoyuan and New Taipei traded verbal blows Saturday over fares for the yet-to-launch airport MRT, even after prices were cut by NT$5 to NT$20 after public outrage.

“I never thought mature politicians could be so bad,” Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan said, lamenting the “smearing and distortions” in the dispute over the line, which his government is in charge of running but which was also paid for by New Taipei. Cheng lambasted New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu for an “abrupt change of his position” on a fare-pricing scheme initially agreed to by both cities. Cheng also criticized Chu’s chief secretary for “smearing” Taoyuan. But New Taipei’s Transportation Department was having none of it, describing Cheng’s latest remarks as “political language full of smearing and distortions.” Greater Taoyuan and New Taipei City have been exchanging insults since fares for the airport MRT service were announced on Dec. 2. The pricing scheme had been agreed to by a fare evaluation committee, on which Taoyuan and New Taipei has representatives. But the scheme met with strong criticism from the public, particularly those looking to use the line for commuting. They complained that the fares were far higher than those of the Taipei MRT. A single-ride ticket from Taipei Main Station to the airport will cost NT$160 — a price that has been widely accepted. But another major role of the airport MRT will be as a commuter transport line taking Taoyuan and New Taipei residents into Taipei, and these would-be passengers reacted angrily to the fare-pricing scheme. Now with Lower Fares Following the uproar, Taoyuan Metro Corp., which manages the airport MRT, on Saturday announced fare reductions and new discount rates. While a ride between Taipei Main Station and the airport still costs NT$160, fares to Taipei from other stops along the line have been cut. The new fare for a Linkuo-Taipei ride — which drew the most criticism from commuters — is now NT$80, down from NT$100.

TMC is also offering monthly and quarterly tickets with 30 percent and 40 percent discounts, respectively. Cheng denied that Taoyuan Metro Corp. had bowed to pressure with the new prices. The company had always thought such fare changes might be made, Cheng said, adding that the fare evaluation committee had already authorized the metro firm to make adjustments.

He said he hoped the bickering could end before the line begins commercial operations.