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Taiwan High Speed Rail
System map
Reporting mark THSR
Locale Taiwan proper
Dates of operation 5 January, 2007–present
Track gauge 4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) Standard gauge
Length 335.5 km
Headquarters Taipei, Taiwan
Taiwan High Speed Rail
Traditional Chinese 台灣高速鐵路 or
Traditional Chinese 台灣高鐵 or 臺灣高鐵

Taiwan High Speed Rail (traditional Chinese: 台灣高速鐵路, abbreviated THSR) is a high-speed rail network that runs along the west coast of Taiwan. It is approximately 335.50 kilometers (208 mi) long, and runs from Taipei City to Kaohsiung City. THSR began operation on January 5, 2007.

THSR is based on Japan's Shinkansen system, and its Taiwan High Speed 700T train is a variant of the 700 Series Shinkansen. The 700T train is built by a consortium of Japanese rolling stock builders, most notably Kawasaki Heavy Industries.[1] The total cost of the project is estimated to be US$15 billion,[2] and is one of the largest privately funded transport schemes to date. An express train capable of running at up to 300 km/h (186 mph)[3] travels from Taipei City to Kaohsiung City in about 90 minutes, compared to 4.5 hours for a train on the conventional western trunk line of the Taiwan Railway Administration;[4] a local THSR train takes approximately two hours to travel the same route, stopping at all stations. The present Chairperson of the Board and CEO of Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation is Dr. Chin-der Ou (歐晉德).



THSR train on a test run in June 2006.

Although informal planning began as early as 1980, the first formal plans for a high speed rail line linking the cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung were proposed in a Ministry of Transportation study in 1990.[5] They were then approved by the Executive Yuan in 1992 and the Legislative Yuan in 1993. The decision to pursue a Build-Operate-Transfer method was also approved.

In a prolonged bidding process, the Taiwan High Speed Rail Consortium (THSRC) ran against the Chunghwa High Speed Rail Consortium (CHSRC). THSRC's bid was based on the high-speed technology platform of Eurotrain, a joint venture of GEC-Alsthom (the main maker of the French TGV) and Siemens (the main maker of the German ICE), while CHSRC's bid was based on the Japanese Shinkansen technology. THSRC also promised to build the line entirely from private capital. In 1997, THSRC was awarded the project.[6] The group was renamed and formally established as the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation (THSRC) in May 1998.

In October 1997, the Eurotrain consortium was declared the preferred bidder to supply trains and equipment and execute the actual construction. The two companies formed a Eurotrain demonstration train by joining two ICE 2 powerheads to the unpowered double-deck middle cars of a TGV Duplex. This train made a demonstration run on the Hannover-Würzburg line in Germany with THSRC representatives present, achieving a maximum speed of 316 km/h.[7][8]

However, THSRC announced on 28 December 1999 that it would negotiate a final contract with the Taiwan Shinkansen Consortium, saying that while both trains were satisfactory, TSC had "technology, price, finance and maintenance merits".[9] Eurotrain contested the decision, and a long controversy followed until THSRC agreed to pay compensation (see Controversy subsection below).

A benefit of the Japanese system that became apparent after the Chi-Chi earthquake in Taiwan on 21 September 1999 was the "UrEDAS" (Urgent Earthquake Detection and Alarm System, ja:ユレダス) earthquake detection system.

After the signing of contracts, actual construction began in March 2000. The design speed for the line is 350 km/h (217 mph).[10] Ballastless slab track of both Japanese and German manufacture was used.[11]

Running tests using the first 700T trains started in January 2005. In late October 2005, Taiwan High Speed Rail passed its targeted top service speed of 300 km/h (186 mph) and achieved 315 km/h (196 mph) during testing.

Trial runs between Banciao (Taipei) and Zuoying (Kaohsiung) opened to the public on January 5, 2007.[12] The HSR platforms at Taipei Main Station opened on March 2, 2007,[13] bringing the entire line into operation.

In December 2005, some of the same Japanese companies involved in THSR won another project to build a high speed rail link to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, with the exception of the signaling system (which was awarded to Westinghouse Rail Systems).



THSRC's awarding of the train contracts to the Taiwan Shinkansen Consortium (TSC) instead of Eurotrain was a subject of controversy. THSRC itself won the THSR tender with a plan based on the Eurotrain, while its defeated competitor based its offer on the Shinkansen. But shortly after winning the BOT contract, THSRC declared that the construction and train system bid was open to TSC as well.[6]

In the months prior to the final decision, financial considerations were emphasized, as THSRC had difficulty raising capital for the project. In May 1999, the government of Japan promised soft loans if the TSC proposal won. Likewise, the head of the losing CHSRC bid, who was the top financier of the governing Kuomintang, promised funds if THSRC switched to the Shinkansen.[14] In September, Eurotrain offered to take a 10% stake in THSRC.[15] The next year, TSC, too, signed an agreement to buy a 10% stake.[16]

When announcing its decision, THSRC emphasized that expectations on exchange rate fluctuations played a role, but also noted that TSC offered a newer Shinkansen than they had in 1997.[9]

It was rumored that the decision was political: according to Taiwanese media, the choice was to pave the way for then-President Lee Teng-hui's visit to Japan.[9] THSRC denied the allegation.[17] However, in a book published in May 1999, Lee made a case for picking the Japanese offer, claiming that while it was more expensive, the Shinkansen was superior based on safety and political considerations.[14]

The losing Eurotrain consortium filed an injunction against THSRC's negotiations with TSC,[18] but lost the case both on the initial filing[19 ] and at the appeal in High Court.[20] While Eurotrain eventually conceded the train system bid, it filed a US$800 million damage claim at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre in February 2001. In reaction, THSRC contended that their decision was a commercial one, reiterating that "price, financial planning, and maintenance" were the only deciding factors.[21] After a lengthy arbitration process, the court ruled in March 2004 that THSRC should pay a compensation for the US$32 million Eurotrain spent on development and further unjust enrichment.[22 ] THSRC agreed to pay US$65 million (US$89 million with interest) to Eurotrain in November 2004.[17]

Meanwhile, the cost of the project grew. Critics point out that the total cost exceeded $15 billion, or about $650 for every man, woman, and child in Taiwan.[5] Funded by private means, it was billed as the largest Build-Operate-Transfer project in history, but the development corporation THSRC consistently failed to meet its funding targets on time. Legislators attacked THSRC for breaching its promise to finance the project entirely from private funds, claiming that 84% of the financing in the BOT scheme came from the government or state-owned corporations, and adopted an opposition proposal to limit further public funding.[23]

The project was also dogged by allegations of poor quality construction, claims of unresolved safety concerns by THSRC opponents, and an additional year-long delay.[24]

Supporters of the project believed THSR would help relieve traffic congestion along the heavily traveled western corridor, while also having the advantages of greater safety, high transit volume, low land occupancy, energy economy, and low pollution. For example, The New York Times reported, "Passengers who travel on a fully loaded train will use only a sixth of the energy they would use if they drove alone in a car and will release only one-ninth as much carbon dioxide, the main gas linked to global warming."[5]

As a legacy of working with Eurotrain, THSR started operation of its Japanese-built trains with 40 French and 13 German drivers. THSRC planned to train enough local drivers to replace them in 18 months.[25] As of March 2008, THSR employed 54 Taiwanese and 35 foreign drivers, with most of the foreign drivers being French nationals. Training and hiring sufficient drivers was seen as a pressing issue for the future. THSRC estimated it would need about 100 Taiwanese drivers to reach its target level of service.[26]

Despite pre-opening doubts, THSR has taken a large share of the market for north-south trips in western Taiwan (see Ridership section).

Rolling stock

All 30 trainsets on THSR are 700T EMUs, based on the 700 Series Shinkansen train used in Japan. The maximum service speed of the trains is 300 km/h (186 mph). The 12-car trains have a passenger capacity of 989 seats, in two class configuration (66 seats in Business Class, the rest Standard Class).

In November 2008, THSRC announced that the company will order a further 6-12 trains from the Japanese makers the next year, for service from 2011, to cope with increased demand.[27]


All trains stop at Taipei, Banciao and Taichung stations, but there are several service patterns for other stations.[28]

  • Train numbers 1xx: Taipei to Zuoying, stops at Banciao, Taichung only
  • Train numbers 2xx: Taipei to Zuoying, stops at Banciao, Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan
  • Train numbers 3xx: Taipei to Zuoying, stops at Banciao, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Taichung
  • Train numbers 4xx: Taipei to Zuoying, stops at all stations, local service.
  • Train numbers 5xx: Taipei to Taichung, stops at all intermediate stations, local service.
  • Train numbers 55x: Taichung to Zuoying, stops at all intermediate stations, local service.

Standard and business cars compartments are available aboard each train, with the latter offering wider seating, individual audio entertainment systems and power outlets for portable electronics in each seat.[29]

The system's operating hours are from 6:00AM to 12:00 midnight.[30]

Train frequency was ramped up progressively from an initial 38 per day. A maximum 176 train runs per day is possible with the current 30 trains. This was expected to be reached at the end of 2009,[27] however, with the onset of the global economic crisis,[31] train frequency was reduced instead. On July 1, 2009, train frequency was increased again.

Table for progression of THSRC train frequencies is in the following:

Timetable valid from... Trains per day (both directions, peak)
January 5, 2007 38
March 31, 2007 50
June 1, 2007 62
July 27, 2007 74[32]
September 14, 2007 91[33]
November 9, 2007 113[34]
January 18, 2007 126[35]
July 4, 2008 140[36]
December 1, 2008 142[37]
March 16, 2009 134[31]
July 1, 2009 137[38][39]
January 8, 2010 143[40]


Standard car riders on a northbound train.

Original estimates foresaw an initial daily ridership of 180,000, which would grow to 400,000 by 2036.[41] The initial ridership estimate was later reduced to 140,000 per day.[42] Actual initial ridership did not match these projections. In September 2007, six months after opening, THSR carried 1.5 million passengers monthly,[43] translating to about 50,000 passengers daily. However, operation of high-speed service did not start at full capacity, as shown in the previous section.

On June 3, 2007, there were 5 million cumulative passengers,[44] the 10 millionth passenger boarded on September 26, 2007,[43] the 20 millionth on March 7, 2008,[45] the 30 millionth on July 5, 2008,[46] the 40 millionth on October 23, 2008.[37] Monthly figures[47]:

2007 2008 2009
January 1,161,047 1,958,004 2,786,684
February 724,784 2,095,210 2,396,845
March 919,455 2,311,821 2,648,005
April 1,076,413 2,545,527 2,582,952
May 1,155,098 2,603,395 2,752,003
June 1,241,227 2,537,620 2,436,486
July 1,425,755 2,811,997[48] 2,957,323
August 1,373,686 2,973,150[49] 2,716,287
September 1,367,236 2,488,574 2,440,872[50]
October 1,448,553 2,855,980
November 1,659,510 2,741,710
December 2,002,896 2,658,273 2,978,076[51]
Total 15,555,656 30,581,260 32,349,260[51]

Daily ridership was around 92,000 in October 2008, corresponding to a load factor of 44.7%[52].

The system marked two highs on April 6, 2008, the Tomb Sweeping Day holiday, when THSRC transported 132,000 passengers and operated 130 trains.[53] On October 10, 2008, the Double Ten Day holiday, a new record of 161,000 passengers a day was achieved.[54]

In the first year of operation, until December 31, 2007, THSRC's trains were 99.46% on-time, had seat occupancy of 44.72%[55], and carried 15.55 million passengers.[56] In the second year, passenger numbers almost doubled to 30.58 million.[57]

The high-speed trains successfully out-competed planes: by August 2008, half of the air routes between Taipei City and the country's western cities have been discontinued, including all connections between cities with THSRC stations except for a single daily connection between Taipei and Kaohsiung.[58][59] Total domestic air traffic was expected to be halved from 2006 to 2008[58], and did fall from 8.6 to 4.9 million.[60]

Despite cheaper ticket prices, long-distance bus companies, too, felt the effect of the THSR. Companies reported passenger volumes reduced by 20 to 30 percent.[61] Toll expressway traffic, growing uninterrupted until 2006, decreased in 2007 and 2008.[62]


The operational break-even level (income less operating costs, excluding financial costs) of NT$1 billion[63] was reached in the fourth month of operation, April 2007.[64] In the first nine months, revenue was NT$9.19 billion, and THSRC expected to become profitable by 2009.[65]. The cash-flow break-even level (excluding depreciation and debt service[66]) was reached in April 2008, when an income of NT$1.9 billion in ticket and NT$0.2 billion in other sales stood against operating costs around NT$0.85-0.9 billion and interest payments around NT$1.3 billion per month[67].

2007 2008 2009
January NT$599.263 million NT$1,550.991 million[68] NT$2,230.886 million[69]
February NT$669.273 million NT$1,728.569 million NT$1,735.106 million
March NT$867.659 million[68] NT$1,903.876 million[68] NT$1,908.816 millon
April NT$1,030.259 million NT$2,100 million NT$1,856.083 million
May NT$1,078.242 million[70] NT$1,903.502 million NT$2,040.365 million
June NT$1,135.954 million NT$1,875.924 million NT$1,736.616 million
July NT$1,282.161 million NT$2,038.358 million[71] NT$2,091,261 million
August NT$1,259.984 million NT$2,168.552 million NT$1,841.884 million
September NT$1,268.284 million NT$1,816.059 million
October NT$1,320.430 million NT$2,109.892 million
November NT$1,413.973 million NT$2,028.733 million
December NT$1,578.305 million NT$1,991.578 million
Total NT$13.96924 billion NT$23.047583 billion

In its first year, THSRC made revenues of NT$13.5 billion by selling 15.79 million tickets.[55] In the second year, with increased circulations, revenues increased to NT$23 billion[57], barely short of THSRC's expectations a year earlier of a doubling of revenues.

In the whole of 2008, financial costs stood at NT$17.4 billion for interest payments and NT$18.9 billion for depreciation charges.[72] THSRC[73] and the government[72] blamed an unreasonable financial structure, with high interest rates, and a depreciation period set at 26.5 years, much lower than the estimated service life.[74] In 2008[75] and 2009, THSRC sought to revise its loan structure, with view to interests at rates well above market rates.[76][69] The fall in interest rates in the first half of 2009 was only enough to reduce losses.[77] To reduce depreciation costs by increasing the amortisation time, THSRC requested an extension of its 35-year concession period.[74]

In 2009, it was revealed that THSR has lost NT$67.5 billion in the two years since opening, equivalent to two thirds of its equity capital. The workforce has been cut from 3600 to 2500, work on the extension to Nankang was halted, and the planned construction of three more intermediate stations was postponed.[78] The company got a new management in September 2009[79] with the aim to turn around the company's finances with government help in organising a refinance. While the government decided that the construction of the three stations should go ahead anyway, the company's creditors and founding shareholders refused to increase the loan package for the planned refinance.[80] The government took majority control of the company after the election of its new board on 10 November 2009.[81]


Taiwan High Speed Rail
Unknown route-map component "extKBHFa"
0.0 Nangang
Unknown route-map component "tKBHFxa"
9.7 Taipei
Unknown route-map component "tBHF"
17.5 Banciao
Unknown route-map component "tBHF"
42.2 Taoyuan
Exit tunnel
Elevated start
Station on elevated
72.1 Hsinchu
Unknown route-map component "eBHF-ELEV"
104.8 Miaoli
Station on elevated
165.7 Taichung
Unknown route-map component "eBHF-ELEV"
193.8 Changhua
Unknown route-map component "eBHF-ELEV"
218.4 Yunlin
Station on elevated
251.5 Chiayi
Station on elevated
313.8 Tainan
Elevated end
Unknown route-map component "KBHFxe"
345.2 Zuoying
Unknown route-map component "exTUNNELa"
Unknown route-map component "extKBHFe"

Thirteen Taiwan High Speed Rail stations were planned in the western corridor, with eight stations already open in Taipei, Banciao, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan and Zuoying. Five more stations (in Nangang, Miaoli, Changhua, Yunlin and Kaohsiung) will be built in future years.


Station distance(km) stopping pattern connection location
Nangang (future) 0.0 Taiwan Railway Administration - Western Line
Taipei Rapid Transit System - Bannan Line
Taipei City Nangang district
Taipei 9.7 Taiwan Railway Administration - Western Line (Taipei Main Station)
Taipei Rapid Transit System - Danshui Line, Bannan Line, Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport Access MRT System
Zhongzheng District
Banciao 17.5 Taiwan Railway Administration
Taipei Rapid Transit System - Banciao Line, Circular Line
Taipei County Banciao City
Taoyuan 42.2 Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport Access MRT System
Taoyuan MRT System - Blue Line
(under construction)
Taoyuan County Zhongli City
Hsinchu 72.1 Taiwan Railway Administration - Lìujiā Line (under construction) Hsinchu County Zhubei City
Miaoli (future) 104.8 Taiwan Railway Administration - Taichung Line (Fongfu) Miaoli County Houlong Township
Taichung 165.7 Taiwan Railway Administration - Western Line (New Wurih Station)
Taichung Metropolitan Area MRT System - Green Line (planned)
Taichung County Wuri Township
Changhua (future) 193.8 Taiwan Railway Administration - Western Line (New Tianjhong Station) Changhua County Tianzhong Township
Yunlin (future) 218.4 Yunlin County Huwei Township
Chiayi 251.5 Chiayi Bus Rapid Transit Chiayi County Taibao City
Tainan 313.8 Taiwan Railway Administration - Shālún Line (under construction) Tainan County Guiren Township
Zuoying 345.2 Taiwan Railway Administration - Western Line (New Zuoying Station)
Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit - Red Line
Kaohsiung City Zuoying District
Kaohsiung (future) Taiwan Railway Administration - Western Line, Pingtung Line
Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit - Red Line, Green Line (Light Rail)
Sanmin District

In popular culture

The Amazing Race 12

Taiwan High Speed Rail was featured prominently during the 12th season of CBS's reality show The Amazing Race.

Depiction in train simulators

A Taiwan High Speed Rail simulator, known as Railfan: Taiwan High Speed Rail, was developed by Taiwan-based company Actainment and produced by the Japanese publisher Ongakukan in 2007. The software was released on the PlayStation 3 system in Asia (Hong Kong, Taiwan & Singapore) and later in Japan as part of the popular Train Simulator series.

See also


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Further reading

  • Hood, Christopher P. (2006). Shinkansen – From Bullet Train to Symbol of Modern Japan. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-32052-6 (hb) or ISBN 0415444098.   (pb)

External links


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