Taiwan Airport MRT could be delayed until 2015: Reports

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The opening of the Mass Rapid Transit line to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport could be delayed until 2015 because of government inefficiency, the Chinese-language United Evening News reported Saturday.
The original plan was for services to start in October of this year, but contractors have already missed several deadlines while the government failed to take drastic action to correct the problems, according to the paper.
Construction on the project was first launched in 2006 by the government of then-President Chen Shui-bian, but the completion dates promised by his successor, President Ma Ying-jeou, have been put back several times.
Quality problems with the signaling system have forced the constructors to opt for a complete replacement, while the integration and testing of 12 other items to be improved will take more than a year, according to Ju Hsu, the director general of the Bureau of High Speed Rail at the Ministry of Transportation.
The section between Sanchung, New Taipei City, and Chungli in Taoyuan County was scheduled to start operating in October, but that will now be impossible. The government was considering timing the opening of the entire line between Taipei and Chungli for October 2014.
Because of all the delays incurred during the project and the timing of the necessary changes, tests and inspections, the opening of the whole line might be postponed until the end of 2014 or even until 2015, according to the United Evening News.
The government reportedly blamed the problems on the main contractor, Marubeni Corporation. The design of its electrical systems came in late, which had a knock-on effect on the procurement and installation of the equipment, Ju said. There was a delay of 10 percent on a range of items including train cars, communication, power and central control, according to the official.
A dispute with a subcontractor about the rail tracks led to a search for another company, again costing valuable time, while another quarrel between Marubeni and a local company delayed the project for a train depot, according to Ju.
The official said it had already put back the deadline for a partial opening of the line from June to October when problems emerged with the signaling system, including cracks that would allow rain to seep into the equipment. Ju said that since manufacturing of the new system was still on the way, its installation would start in June.
Marubeni was expected to present an updated report on its progress halfway this month, with the ministry considering its release to the public, the United Evening News wrote.
Ruling Kuomintang lawmaker Lee Hung-chun said the first mistake the government made was to entrust the entire project to Marubeni, which is a Japanese trading group with no effective knowledge of how to integrate various aspects of such a far-reaching engineering enterprise.
In addition to the numerous disputes between Marubeni and subcontractors, Lee said he was also worried about problems which might only show up once the trains operated, such as excessive noise.
A postponement until 2015 would also lead to the contractor incurring a daily fine of NT$12.5 million (US$417,000), which would result in court cases and in the government having to swallow its pride, the United Evening News wrote.
The 51-kilometer line will include 25 stations over its entire stretch from central Taipei to Chungli. The stretch between the airport and Chungli will function as a mass rapid transit system for Taoyuan County, reports said.