Sporting his Taiwan Railways Administration cap, Taichung station director Wang He-chieh ( 王河傑 ) gets asked a lot of questions these days by Taichung commuters, with one of the most popular being, “Where are the trains?”
The confusion is short-term, railways officials hope, as travelers get accustomed to Taichung’s new NT$221 million elevated train station. Opened in October, the sleekly-designed station replaces the adjoining century-old former station.
“It’s definitely better than before,” said Li Bing-Hsing (李秉興), after arriving by train from Miaoli. “It’s not that crowed and a lot more convenient.”
Preserving the past while planning for the future is what architect Shu Chang (張樞) hoped to achieve when designing the new station.
“I tried to respect the old building as much as possible,” said Chang, a Taichung native, whose company was subcontracted by CECI Engineering Consultants. “It’s one of the better examples of Japanese-era architecture.”
To better show off the historic building, the less-sightly recent additions will be removed. The original platforms and tracks, however, will remain as part of a new railway museum that will be completed soon.
The new station’s second-floor concourse was designed to be “open air” to take advantage of Taichung’s usually mild weather, said Chang, who also teaches architecture at National Taiwan University.
A large pedestrian area on the first floor will be a multi-use public space, he said.
Chang said the new station is intended to embrace the concept of urban design, adding, “It will totally redesign that part of the city.”
With weekday ridership at 60,000, passengers at the old station often jostled for space while waiting for their train.
And when construction is completed at the end of next year, the new station will be 33,325 square meters, more than 30 times the size of the original station.
In addition, the new station will be able to accommodate more trains with its five tracks and three platforms. Currently, there are three tracks and two platforms, the same number as at the old station.
While businesses inside the new station are yet to open, train officials said convenience stores and other shops are expected to open within the next few months.
The elevated station and the adjoining tracks will help connect the city as a whole, railway officials said. A series of street-level railroad crossings had effectively cut off portions of the city’s southern and eastern areas.
The new Taichung station is just one in a series of elevated train stations and rail lines winding its way through the city.
“I’m proud of this project,” said Wang. “We’re revitalizing this area of the city.” Railway and city officials hope the new station will help create more convenience for travelers with a boom in business opportunities.
BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES FOR SOME
The construction of the new station has already been an economic shot in the arm for an older, working-class section of the city.
From tea stands to sandwich shops, business is flourishing adjacent to the new station.
“I’m very happy. It’s 50 percent better,” said Roy Chiu (邱富崑), manager of a nearby tea stand. The upturn in business has allowed his employees to work additional hours for bigger paychecks, he said.
And while businesses near the new station are finding an economic resurgence, on the opposite side of the tracks it’s the flip side.