The first railway line in Taiwan was completed in 1893. Today there are some 1,000km of traditional railway lines with a 350 km High Speed line between Taipei and Zuoying, which was completed in 2007. Taiwan is investing significantly in its rail system including a new link between the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and Tapei City, new stations on the High Speed railway and also on its current and planned metro systems, the first of which opened in Taipei in 1996.
During the past 10 years, there have been a number of Trade Missions to and from Taiwan, facilitated by the Railway Industry Association, UKTI and the British Office in Taipei. In recent years, railway training and skills has come to the forefront of the agenda for the meetings.
In February 2014, Gil Howarth (then Chief Executive of NSARE) presented the role of NSARE within the UK Rail Industry to a large delegation from Taiwan Railways which was visiting the UK. As a result, he was asked to visit Taiwan in January 2015 to make further presentations and participate in a workshop. His visit to Taiwan was incorporated into a UK Trade mission led by the then Transport Minister, Baroness Kramer.
It became apparent over the three days of the visit that the emphasis of the rail investment in Taiwan had been on the capital projects, delivered by large international organisations, and much less on the subsequent requirement for maintenance during the operation of the railway. As a result, maintenance has been generally reactive rather than planned, which can be both costly and result in protracted downtimes. Whole life costing had not figured in the commercial strategy, largely because of ignorance of such techniques. Furthermore, there had been little knowledge transfer from the contractors to the Taiwan railway project teams. During the visit, Gil Howarth signed an agreement with the Chairman of China Engineering Consultants Inc. to support the Taiwanese railway authorities in their skills development programmes.
In July 2015, Howarth & Co was awarded a contract by China Engineering Consultants Inc. to provide Whole Life Costing consultancy services. Network Rail Consulting is supporting Howarth & Co on this project. The first workshop was held in Taipei in August 2015 and was very successful. A follow up workshop to be held in Taipei in December. In the longer term, there are aspirations for the NSARE model, developed, by Howarth & Co, to be adapted and implemented in Taiwan.