Tue, Mar 28, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Yilan railway still a possibility

IGNOREDEast coast residents are environmentally aware and the Feitsui Reservoir would have been worse without the construction of the Hsuehshan Tunnel, lawmaker Chen Ou-po said

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan responds to questions from lawmakers yesterday at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

The government would create a budget for a direct railway line connecting Taipei and Yilan County if the project passes an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Committee and other agencies, Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) said yesterday.

Hochen told the legislature’s Transportation Committee that about half of the NT$880 billion (US$29 billion) for the “Forward-Looking Infrastructure Construction Project,” has been allocated to railway-related projects.

The Cabinet listed 38 projects for cities and counties governed by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), but a direct Taipei-Yilan railway line proposed by lawmakers representing Yilan County was excluded from the list.

DPP Legislator Chen Ou-po (陳歐珀), who recently announced his bid to run for Yilan County commissioner, criticized the government for its ignorance of the needs of the county’s residents, first by former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) “i-Taiwan” 12 Infrastructure Projects and now by President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) proposal.

Chen said the government has budgeted nearly NT$450 billion for railway-related projects, but the county would receive only NT$12 million to pay for the proposed direct railway line and environmental impact analysis, even though it requested NT$130 billion.

Chen asked if the Ministry of Transportation and Communications supports the project, adding that the government cannot just stop a project because it is struck down by an EIA Committee.

“Yilan residents pride themselves on being highly environmentally conscious. I oppose the No. 2 route proposed by the Railway Reconstruction Bureau, which would be unsafe and harmful to the environment,” he said.

“However, if option No. 1, which is parallel to the Chiang Wei-shui Memorial Freeway [National Freeway No. 5], fails to secure EIA committee approval, the government has to amend the project and make it viable again,” he added.

Chen said he believed the project would be technically viable, using the Channel Tunnel that links England and France as an example.

Chen said that Feitsui Reservoir’s (翡翠水庫) water quality would be worse without the construction of the Hsuehshan Tunnel (雪山隧道), in opposition to environmentalists opinions.

Hochen told lawmakers that the ministry’s assessment of the project is scheduled to be completed by the middle of next year, adding that the project would undergo EIA Committee review after it is approved by the ministry and the Executive Yuan.

Should the project secure committee approval, the ministry can start allocating a budget for it from the special budget program and the ministry’s annual budget, Hochen said.

Even though the a small budget has been earmarked for Yilan County, Hochen said that there are still many things that the central government can do to address the transport needs of east coast residents. Building a crossover railway line between Cidu (七堵) and Badu (八堵) railway stations would quickly enhance train capacity heading to Hualien and Taitung, Hochen said.

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