Privatization versus public works for high-speed rail projects

Kao, T.C., Y-C. Lai and M-C. Shih. 2010. Privatization versus public works for high-speed rail projects. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2159: 18-26. doi:10.3141/2159-03.


With its virtues of high speed, large capacity, reduced levels of energy consumption, and low levels of pollution, high-speed rail (HSR) is emerging as an attractive transportation system. Because of the large investment burden required for HSR projects and the inefficiency of government-sponsored public works projects, many countries are now turning to the alternative of privatizing their HSR projects. The present research evaluates the success of privatized versus public HSR projects by comparing the outcomes for the Taiwan high-speed rail (THSR) project and the South Korean high-speed rail (KHSR) project. Except for the project delivery method (privatized versus public works), these two projects had similar project scopes and objectives and had parallel execution times. The results of the study indicate that a privatized HSR project such as THSR has a better likelihood of achieving traditional project management success in terms of time, cost, and quality; however, a government-sponsored HSR project such as KHSR could successfully promote the national HSR industry.