William Lai: Tainan underground rail is not like Dapu

Tainan Mayor William Lai took Interior Minister Lee Hung-yuan to task Wednesday for his comment that expropriation of land for the burial of the Tainan stretch of the TRA rail line was similar to the expropriation imposed by the Miaoli County Government in Dapu. Lai lambasted Lee for sticking his nose into Tainan’s affairs, saying that Lee’s remarks were intended to take pressure off his agency and the government because of the Dapu incident, and pointedly declaring that Wednesday’s press conference was called largely because of the Interior Minister’s comments.

Lai said Minister Lee, Vice-minister Hsiao Chia-chi and many others do not understand what the proposal to bury the Tainan segment underground involves, adding that he offers his personal regrets for the problem. "If the delays and downtime in getting the project for putting the Tainan segment underground are the result of a misunderstanding, Minister Lee is being unfair to the citizens of Tainan citizens, which makes it a political question."

The Dapu case is on the agenda for discussion today at the Executive Yuan and Lai said he wanted to speak out beforehand to make it clear that the Tainan segment and Dapu are two entirely different matters and there is no connection between them. He added that he hopes that Minister Lee will also publicly clarify his position in order to avoid and further misunderstandings.

Lai and Lee are both alumni of National Chengkung University, and both were honored last month with the NCKU Alumni Outstanding Achievement Award. Lee graduated from the Department of Water Conservation in 1978 while Lai studied in the Graduate School of Medicine in 1991.

Lai stressed that the expropriation for the Tainan segment is a general levy imposed for construction of a public project, while the Dapu case was a zone expropriation carried out in order to facilitate a new urban project. He added that the TRA line effectively bisects the city of Tainan with some 225 trains passing through each day and an average of 50,000 people traveling to Tainan Station daily. These simple figures, he said, explain why the city has been fighting for more than three decades to put together a project to bury the Tainan segment of the line underground.

Lai noted that the city’s plan for burying the segment was approved by the central government in September 2009 and people were already looking forward to getting started. Then the Executive Yuan commissioned a private study, producing a plan that was not appreciably better than the city’s proposal and would generate a much greater volume of controversy. Thus, he said, "How can I as mayor support a plan supplied by the Executive Yuan if it is inferior to the version we ourselves developed?"

Lai explained that the Tainan City proposal for the underground railway offers a variety of benefits while satisfying a number of needs. The city will offer compensation for any demolition in accordance with the law, and space gained by putting the rail line underground will go to public parks and roadways, He added that no consortiums will profit from the project or acquire large tracts of land for development and construction. An estimated 407 of households will be affected by the project, he said.

Chen Chih-hsiao, a spokesman for the Self-help Association Opposed to Moving the Tainan Railway Eastward, said the Tainan City proposal is indeed the same kind of indiscriminate expropriation and eviction as was seen in the Dapu case, and this time unfortunately it is being pushed forward by elements of both the KMT and the DPP. He said the association wants a hearing on the proposal only to reach a clear-cut decision on which version is better.

Chen said angrily that the city government and TRA were colluding to discredit the version being offered by his association and criticized them for cutting off all communication with the Self-help Association since March this year. He said that temporary lines had been used in burying the TRA lines in both Taipei and Kaohsiung, so why can’t the same approach be used for the project in Tainan?