Taiwan's bullet train nears completion in Japan
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
"Taiwan's bullet train nears completion in Japan"
The article reports that the planned bullet train in Taiwan is proceeding as scheduled and the new trains will be unveiled in a Japanese factory later this month. The trains will be shipped to Taiwan for thorough testing on the tracks, along with the extensive system to support the operation of the trains, for beginning of business planned later next year.
The system is an adaptation of Japan's Shinkansen, which began carrying passengers in 1964, exactly forty years ago, between Tokyo and Osaka, the two largest cities in Japan. Since then, the Shinkansen system has been extended to cover major regions of Japan by serving as an infrastructure to support, among other things, economic strength of Japan by providing efficient and reliable means of transportation. Today, almost 3 million people a day travel the busiest section between Tokyo and Osaka, on 300 hundred scheduled trains a day, all at a maximum speed of 300 km/h. Another vital fact worth mentioning is that through 40 years of this high speed, frequent service, there has been no fatal accident.
In late 1980s, South Korea and Taiwan thought they would want to have high-speed train systems in their countries, too. As the technology of building and operating high-speed trains was supposedly established in France, Germany, as well as Japan, there were fierce competitions among the three potential providers.
In 1993, Korea chose to adopt the TGV system of France. The plan was to run the train between Seoul, the capital, and Busan, a major seaport, for a distance of 412 kilometers. The reason for Koreans choosing the French system was apparently not simple, which was a result of a long and complicated procedure. But it had been pointed out from the outset, that from technological point of view, Japan's system would fit better than France's, considering the terrain and other natural environment of South Korea were more akin to Japan's than France's. There were rumors that it was because of Korean people's hostile feelings toward Japan, that its proposal was dropped to avoid political repercussions domestically. In any case, the latest report indicates that the planned target of completion in 2008 is impossible, and now that the whole project may be in jeopardy.
On the other hand, in 1999, Taiwan chose Japan's Shinkansen system over France's TGV and Germany's ICE, to serve the 345 kilometers between the capital Taipei and the southern port of Kaohsiung. And as reported in the article introduced, above preparations are on the scheduled track, for commencing services in 2005.
The next huge high-speed train project on the drawing board is in China, and the officials have already exposed a number of plans, for assessments by potential providers, i.e. France, Germany, and Japan. Chinese have been very cautious in favoring any of the system so far, obviously in a tactic to attract an advantageous offer. And it has been natural for industry leaders as well as a significant number of politicians in Japan to express their hope of Japan becoming the provider of the system. It might worth noting, however, that 'JR Tokai', now a privatized company who operates Tokaido Shinkansen and maintains the core technology of building a bullet train system, has recently warned that they would re reluctant to provide their expertise if the concluded agreement would be unfavorable from their business's point of view.