Taipei, July 25 (CNA) Construction of new high speed rail stationsin Miaoli, Changhua and Yunlin counties will start by the end of July, as all three projects have passed environmental impact assessments, transport officials said Wednesday.
According to the officials, the approval by the Environmental ProtectionAdministration (EPA) means that previous concerns over whether constructionwork will worsen the railway's subsidence problems in central Taiwan havebeen brought under control.
"The main construction is likely to start by the end of this year as soon as building permits are issued," said Wang Shi-dian, a deputy section chief of the Bureau of High Speed Rail.
Wang said the three stations, to be built at a cost of NT$7.5 billion (US$249 million), are expected to start operating in mid 2015, making the service available to residents in 12 urban areas on Taiwan's western corridor.
The construction was given a green light after a six-month evaluation processshowed that the Taiwan High Speed Rail Co. had managed to fix problems of waterand soil conservation, according to the EPA.
For instance, it has built rainwater catchment pools near where the Changhuastation will be located, as well as facilities to help monitor the ecology near the Miaoli station.
Bureau data also shows that subsidence in three out of the four major sites along the planned high speed rail route has been eased.
However, the data also shows that the site that has suffered theworst subsidence, where the elevated railway crosses ProvincialExpressway No. 78, remains in worrisome condition after sinking 55 cmover the past seven years.
Opposition voices have expressed doubt as to whether the problemcan ever be fixed and have expressed concern that the structural integrity of the railway remains under threat.
Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan warned the public last year that the high speed rail might not last more than a decade because overuse of groundwater has caused the land on which the railway is built to sink.
However, Yeh Chun-hung, who oversaw the environmental impact assessment, admitted that subsidence continues, but said experts have agreed that building new stations is not likely to worsen the situation.
"We okayed the projects as there is no evidence to show that the highspeed rail itself is a problem for the environment," he said.
(By Lee Hsin-Yin)