Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC), which has built Taiwan's first bullet train system and is still awaiting the final go-ahead to begin service, said that it expects operations to be profitable by its second year.
'We are targeting operational profits in the second year of commercial services,' company chief executive officer Ou Chin-der told XFN-Asia on the sidelines of a media gathering.
It expects to break even 12 months after its first commercial run.
Here's the plan:
He said each train has 989 seats, of which 66 are business class. The fare for each Taipei-Kaohsiung journey is 1,490 twd for economy class and 2,400 twd for business class.
'The plan is for 60 pct capacity during weekdays and 80 pct on weekends,' Chiang said.
Samuel Lin, company deputy chief operation officer, said the bullet train reaches speeds of 300 km per hour.
Among the THSRC's operational targets is passenger volume of 150,000 passengers per day, representing a 70 pct load factor. It will provide services to Taiwan's western transport corridor, where 94 pct of the island's 23 mln people live.
The government is going to try to assure profitability by shutting down several express trains on the ordinary lines, forcing customers to the bullet trains. I suspect this is because, as many will find out, a passenger on the bullet trains is going to take about the same amount of time to get from point A to point B as he would have on the ordinary train. Most of Taiwan's train stations are centrally located and accessible from anywhere in the city. The bullet train stations, by contrast, are in areas far from the city center. The real justification for the bullet train lies here:
An official quoted estimates from the Council of Economic Planning and Development that construction of the high-speed rail network has created 480,000 jobs and may contribute 1 percentage point to economic growth.
Well, it's true that if you spend tons of money on public construction, an economic stimulus will result. But once the construction is over, those jobs will melt away. Essentially Taiwan is on the same construction-industrial state treadmill that Japan was, with large infrastructure projects driving local politics and reorienting local businesses on construction, in turn requiring further provision of infrastructure to keep the System going.
Michael Klein sent me some pictures of the inside of the train. It's quite attractive, and the business class seats all have built-in electric plugs so that you can plug in your laptop, camera, etc. Cool.