Minister of Transportation and Communication (MOTC) Yeh Kuang-shih tendered his resignation on January 7 to accept responsibility for the failure of the Legislative Yuan to approve his plan to rescue the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. (THSRC) from bankruptcy. Yeh, who had held the office since February 2013, said that without the restructuring plan in place, the HSR will fall under government receivership, “possibly at society’s expense.” Although both the president and premier urged Yeh to stay on the job, his resignation was eventually accepted, and MOTC deputy minister Chen Chien-yu was tapped as his successor.
The High Speed Rail has faced financial issues nearly from its inception. Yeh’s proposal was to extend the concession period of the five main investors in the THSRC under the current Built-Operate-Transfer model by 40 years to allow the company to continue operations at minimal expense to taxpayers. The plan estimated that THSRC could earn NT$3.158 trillion in revenues over the extended duration of concession, allowing it to cover its operational costs and debt while paying dividends of NT$196.4 billion to its investors, which include the Bank of Panhsin, United Microelectronics Corp., and Continental Engineering Corp.
However, in a rare show of bipartisanship, the legislature’s Transportation Committee unanimously rejected the proposal, saying it offered too much to investors at the expense of ordinary riders.