Taiwan High Speed Rail (abbreviated THSR or HSR) is a high-speed rail line that runs approximately 345 km (214 mi) along the west coast of the Taiwan, from the national capital of Taipei to the southern city of Kaohsiung. With construction managed by a private company, Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation (THSRC), which also operates the line, the total cost of the project was US$18 billion. At the time it was built this was one of the world's largest privately funded rail construction schemes. The line runs on viaducts or through tunnels for most of its length, with technology based mainly on Japan's Shinkansen system mixed with European standards and system components. The THSR 700T train series is a variant of the 700 Series Shinkansen and was built by a consortium of Japanese rolling stock manufacturers.
The line opened for service on January 5, 2007, using trains with a top speed of 300 km/h (186 mph), which offer journey times from Taipei to Kaohsiung in as short as 96 minutes. In comparison, trains operating on the conventional Western Line of the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) take over four hours for the same journey. Tickets are more expensive than on normal trains or express buses, but cheaper than those for airplanes. Most intermediate stations on the line lie outside the cities served, with rapid transit connections constructed only after the opening of the line. Ridership initially fell short of forecasts, but grew from fewer than 40,000 passengers a day in the first few months to over 120,000 passengers a day in 2012 (updated to Sep. 2012). Once THSR began operations, almost all passengers switched from airlines flying parallel routes, while road traffic was also impacted. The system has carried over 189 million passengers since it opened for service (updated to Sep. 2012).
In the initial years of operation, THSRC accumulated debt due to high depreciation charges and interest, which originated in the financial structure set up for private capital to build and operate the line. Following the takeover of the company's board by the Taiwanese government in 2009, these financial problems were addressed by changing the method of accounting the cost of building the line and the trains, as well as by refinancing THSRC's loans. The present chairman of the board and CEO of the company is civil engineer Chin-der Ou.
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