The more I live here, the more I wonder how the MRT could have cost 18 billion USD in its first phase. The first heavy line (the red line) went from Danshui to Taipei Main Station. It is a fairly long line with a lot of stations.
However, as I have been finding out on my various trips, it existed before, under Japanese occupation. The Japanese built a railway to Danshui back in 1900. It closed in July, 1988 so that the red line could be built. The red line is now either underground or elevated much of that difference, but I still have to wonder why it cost so much. Back then, the raw materials and labour should have both been much cheaper.
There also was a railway line south to Xindian, which was the other end of the line that went to Danshui. In the future, they will be two separate lines that meet twice near the centre of old Taipei.
All of the more recent extensions and current construction cost much less (13 billion US), not even adjusted for inflation. The newer lines under construction also do not use previously-owned right-of-way.