20 years ago, the Kaohsiung City Government undertook a feasibility study to construct a rapid transit system in Kaohsiung. In 1990, after favorable results from the study and lobbying efforts, approval was granted to establish the Kaohsiung City Mass Rapid Transit Bureau. Disputes in funding between the city government and county government stalled the project and it wasn’t until 1994 that the bureau was officially established. In 1996, the Central government ordered the KMRT to construct the project under a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) method. Three corporations bid for the project and in 2000 it was awarded to Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corporation (KRTC), made up of China Steel Corporation, Southeast Cement Corporation, RSEA Engineering Corporation, China Development Industrial Bank, and the Industrial Bank of Taiwan. The system comprises 2 lines, the red line and the orange line, covering a total of 42.7km. The red line runs north-south from Gangshan ( ???) to Siaogang (??) over a distance of 28.3km with 15 underground stations, 1 ground level stations and 8 elevated stations. The orange line, comprising of 13 underground and 1 ground level station, runs 14.4km from Sizhiwan (???) in the west to Daliao (??) in the east.
Construction began on October 24, 2001 and the KMRT was originally scheduled to be partially open by the end of 2004 and fully operational by late 2006. However, various problems in construction and scandals have meant that the KMRT is still not complete. In August 2004, and again in December 2005, sections of the orange line tunnel collapsed, delaying the construction and damaging surrounding buildings and roads. As of now, several buildings have been condemned and the road is still closed to traffic. Also in 2005, a scandal erupted involving alleged inhumane treatment of Thai migrant workers that lead to the resignation of Chen Chu, the Chairperson of the Council of Labor Affairs of the Executive Yuan. Investigations revealed kickbacks to politicians by the contractor and prompted the Thai prime minister to ask the Thai workers to return to Thailand.
While it is still unclear when the KMRT will become fully operational, some stations were opened over the Chinese New Year holiday for people to inspect and take short rides on. I visited on the first day and saw three stations and took a short ride on the red line. While it was possible to ride the KMRT for six stations, I only rode for one, as once you’re on the train it’s pretty much the same as the Taipei MRT. The photos in this post are of the train itself, and of the Central Park, Sanduo and Shihjia stations.
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Published on 2/10/08