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Control Yuan suggests scrapping discount fares for foreigners on HSR
Central News Agency
2014-04-15 09:46 PM
Taipei, April 15 (CNA) As the high-speed rail (HSR) continues to struggle with years of accumulated losses, the Control Yuan Tuesday proposed making up part of the difference by canceling discounts for disabled, elderly and under-12 foreign visitors to Taiwan. Chien Lin Hui-chun, a member of the government's highest supervisory body, questioned the wisdom of extending the discounts enjoyed by Taiwanese nationals to foreigners on the 345-kilometer railway, the beneficiary of government investments and subsidies. She crunched the numbers to find that concession tickets sold to foreigners since 2009 have made the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. (THSRC) miss out on NT$199 million (US$6.59 million). The operator of the railway, which opened in 2007, had accumulated NT$53.5 billion in losses as of January, 2014 despite having started to turn a profit in 2011. THSRC currently offers the same fare discounts to foreigners as it does to Taiwanese citizens: half-price tickets for the mentally or physically disabled, senior citizens of 65 and up, and children under 12. Chien Lin's report called for a reconsideration of the policy, which she said takes advantage of subsidies from Taiwanese taxpayers, though the report did not make any apparent suggestions for policies on foreign nationals who legally reside and work in Taiwan. The Control Yuan member also cited canceling the discounts out of the "spirit of equality and reciprocity," arguing that mass transit systems in other countries such as Japan, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom, "do not have preferential treatment for our (Taiwanese) nationals." According to her report, THSRC has previously defended its policy as a way to boost Taiwan's friendly reputation and attract more foreign visitors. Chien Lin's report also said in a separate section that legally mandated concession tickets on regular trains -- apparently for both Taiwanese and foreigners alike -- have caused the Taiwan Railways Administration to lose some NT$4.09 billion. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications has not subsidized the rail authority's burden as it is required to, Chien Lin said. (Aileen Chuang and Wesley Holzer)
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