Plan for high-speed cross-strait rail link

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 January, 2008, 12:00am

A plan has been rolled out to link the mainland and Taiwan with two high-speed railways.

The Fujian government signed a memorandum with the Ministry of Railways on Sunday that endorsed building a high-speed railway from Beijing to Taiwan via Fujian, the quasi-official China News Service reported yesterday.

Another link between Kunming and Taiwan would also be built.

However, the report did not give a timetable, and it was unclear where the island's terminal would be.

The plan marks the latest attempt by Beijing to link the mainland and Taiwan. Beijing has included an expressway between the capital and Taiwan under the 11th five-year economic plan for transport.

A tunnel linking the two sides of the strait was proposed last year by authorities in Fujian, the closest mainland province to Taiwan.

The Taiwan Strait was off-limits to direct transport links until chartered flights started taking Taiwanese living on the mainland home, without stops in Hong Kong or overseas countries during the Lunar New Year in 2005.

Official talks on promoting the so-called 'three direct links' - trade, transport and postal ties - were halted when the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party took power eight years ago.

There has been hope that, with the relatively mainland-friendly Kuomintang winning in legislative elections this month and the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou ahead in the race for the March presidential election, economic integration could be further enhanced.

Beijing has also been rolling out economic and social incentives to appease Taiwanese.

Chen Kongli from Xiamen University's Taiwan Research Institute, said economic co-operation was likely to be enhanced if the Kuomintang regained power. But he said it would be too early to plan any transport links as the two sides still had many issues to resolve. 'This is like building castles in the air,' he said.