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Government to extend high-speed rail to Pingtung: Premier
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Photo courtesy of CNA
Taipei, Jan. 13 (CNA) Premier Su Tseng-chang  on Tuesday announced that the government has decided to extend the high-speed rail line to Pingtung County in response to long standing calls from local lawmakers wanting to boost travel to Taiwan's southernmost county.

Su made the announcement during an inspection tour in Pingtung, saying the High Speed Rail (HSR) will go beyond its current terminus of Zuoying Station in Kaohsiung to serve Pingtung.

For years, Pingtung-elected lawmakers had urged the government to extend the HSR to their county to boost travel and business.

However, scholars have questioned the business logic of such an extension due to relatively low demand in Pingtung.

Su said the decision will improve the islandwide transportation network and further boost the nation's competitiveness.

Facing criticism that the announcement is an election campaign giveaway, Su said the decision had nothing to do with the presidential and legislative elections in January.

President Tsai Ing-wen  echoed Su's statement at a separate press event, saying the extension of the HSR to Pingtung is part of a comprehensive development plan for the country to create an integrated transportation network around the island.

As the majority shareholder in the HSR, Taiwan's government has the ability to "guide" company decisions.

Meanwhile, Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung  said the ministry is scheduled to review four possible extension routes at upcoming meeting later this month.

The ministry previously conducted feasibility studies on two possible high-speed rail routes to Pingtung, with one beginning at the HSR train depot in Kaohsiung's Yanchao District and the other at its Zuoying station, both involving an elevated railway.

The estimated cost of the routes was NT$56.1 billion (US$1.78 billion) and NT$55.4 billion, respectively.

The ministry proposed another two new routes in July, both passing through Kaohsiung, with one going from Zuoying to Taiwan Railway Administration's (TRA's) Pingtung Station via TRA Kaohsiung Station.

The other goes from Zuoying to Pingtung's Chaozhou Station via Kaohsiung International Airport, both by underground railway.
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