TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taipei Metro voiced worry on Monday (June 27) that it may become financially unsustainable if electricity prices are hiked, as an energy committee meeting scheduled for Monday afternoon is expected to result in a decision to raise the cost of electricity.
The Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC), which operates the metro system, held an extraordinary press conference urging the government to consider the woes public transportation businesses are suffering.
According to the TRTC, Taipei Metro fares have remained NT$3.21 (US$0.11) for every kilometer traveled for the last 26 years. The ticket prices have been frozen despite rising operating costs, which are partly attributed to the 20% surge in electricity prices between 1997 and 2021.
The metro system spent an average of NT$2 billion annually on electricity in the past three years. Energy conservation measures have been adopted, including the use of LED lighting and more energy-efficient air-conditioning, as well as adjustment of train services, but there are limits to how much more can be done so that the quality of services is not compromised, the company stressed.
Meanwhile, the discounted rates provided by Taiwan Power Company are applicable only to rail power systems, which account for 40% of the total electricity consumed, but saw a meager monthly reduction of NT$3 million on the TRTC’s energy bills last year. This fails to address the other large energy-consuming facilities of the metro system, the MRT stations.
The plunge in ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a heavy toll on the company and all other public transportation service providers, it added. Taipei Metro saw an average of 1.47 million passengers per day as of June 23 from the start of this year, a 32.2% drop compared to the same period in 2018.
The TRTC called on the government to weigh the role of the rail service businesses before implementing any price hike. The TRTC gave an ambiguous answer when asked whether fares would increase due to the rise in energy costs.
The plan to hike electricity rates frowns local business leaders. In a Facebook post on June 25, I-Mei Foods CEO Luis Ko (高志明) suggested that industrial users should bear the major burden of the energy cost with at least a 10% hike in electricity rates and small businesses should be spared. Those in the industrial manufacturing sector must place sustainability on their development agenda and shoulder the increased cost for the country to achieve the 2050 net-zero target, he urged.