Taipei Airport MRT vs. Hokkaido Shinkansen

A brand new Taoyuan Airport Metro train
An express train on the Taipei-Taoyuan International airport metro line. The line’s opening has been delayed again due to safety testing problems. Photo: Metro Taoyuan

A couple of days ago a discussion began on Taiwan’s popular PTT Bulletin board. This led to an article by Zeng Hua-rei (曾華銳), published on Buzzorange.com yesterday, and today the issue has hit the papers.

Comparisons are being made between the construction of the Hokkaido Shinkansen, which is due to open this Saturday, March 26, and the Taoyuan Airport MRT which was due to begin operations in 2013. The metro line’s construction schedule has been plagued by delays, and the launch date just keeps getting pushed further and further into the future.

The Hokkaido Shinkansen began construction in 2005, and the MRT project started the following year. The Hokkaido line is 150 kilometers long, while the MRT line is only 50 kilometers. The shinkansen line required working in freezing conditions and snow, and also required undersea tunneling; there are relatively few obstacles between Taiwan’s capital city and its main international airport. The shinkansen will operate at speeds up to 260 kilometers per hour, compared to the metro’s 100 kilometers per hour. Despite these great differences, the cost of the projects are roughly the same, with the Hokkaido shinkansen coming in 4 billion Taiwan dollars cheaper at 126 billion NTD.

A comparison chart showing differences between the Hokkaido Shinkansen project and Taipei to Taoyuan MRT line
A chart compares the Hokkaido Shinkansen construction project, and the Taipei to Taoyuan International Airport metro line. Photo: Chungli Facebook group.

One Facebook user on the iChungli Facebook group pointed out that the contractor in charge of the MRT construction is a Japanese company, so why the big difference in efficiency and quality of work? Another claimed it was an unfair comparison, as the Hokkaido shinkansen is an extension of a long-established rail system, whereas the Taoyuan Airport MRT is a new company who had to start from scratch.

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