Taiwan's Bullet Trains Can't Outrun Controversy

The system's enormous cost - $15 billion, or $650 for every man, woman and child on Taiwan - has made it a subject of dispute.

Published: 04-Jan-2007

TAIPEI, Taiwan, Dec. 28 — The sleek, bulbous-nosed new bullet trains here look like they are designed to whisk passengers across wide-open spaces. But on this congested island, they represent the start of a 180-mile-per-hour commuter train system.

After a quarter century of planning and construction, the system is scheduled to open on Jan. 5. It will tie together cities and towns where 94 percent of Taiwan’s population lives, offering an alternative to clogged highways and the air pollution the vehicles on them produce.

For some urban planners and environmentalists, the project is an example of how Asia may be able to control oil imports, curb fast-rising emissions of global-warming gases and bring a higher standard of living to enormous numbers of people in an environmentally sustainable way.

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