Taipei-, The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said Friday it will conduct a feasibility study this year on a proposal to extend the high-speed rail line to Taiwan's southernmost county of Pingtung.
The study will cover technical and legal issues, market, land acquisition, economy, cost, and environmental impact, among others areas, the Railway Reconstruction Bureau said.
When the feasibility report is completed, it will be presented to the Cabinet for consideration, the bureau said.
The high-speed rail system, which began commercial operations in 2007, currently stretches 350 kilometers from Nangang in Taipei- to Zuoying in Kaohsiung, to the north of Pintung, with 10 stations in between.
The proposal to extend the line to Pingtung was put forth by Pan Men-an (???), head of the Pintung County government and a senior member of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
Transportation Minister Ho Chen Tan (???), however, has appeared unsupportive of the proposal.
When asked about it earlier in the week, he said the conditions were not yet right for such a project and that his ministry had no plans to make it a priority.
On Friday, Pan took issue with Ho Chen's comments, saying the minister was looking at the proposal from a Taipei- perspective and had hurt the feelings of Pingtung residents by responding to their request with a "cold and arrogant" attitude.
Pan said Pingtung residents were paying the same taxes as other people in the country but did not have access to convenient transportation. Pingtung's rail services are more outdated than those in Hualien and Taitung and its air services are not as good as in Taiwan's offshore counties, he said.
He argued that the development of Taiwan's transportation network would be far from comprehensive if it focused only on urban regions and ignored the rural areas.
Pingtung has a population of around 835,000.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel