The railway running along Taiwan’s western coastline was completed in 1908, making transport between north and south much more convenient. It also brought about rapid development and commercial prosperity in many of the major cities lining the west coast. After more than a century, however, the railway has become a significant hindrance for growth and has stagnated development in these cities, making it necessary for the railway to either go underground or construct raised platforms for the trains to allow the cities to continue to grow and prosper.
Although construction on Taiwan’s railway system started at the end of the Qing Dynasty, it was not until the Japanese ruled Taiwan that construction on a railway running from Keelung to Kaohsiung started. In October of 1908, the Governor-General of Taiwan organized a fully connected railway system in Taichung, formally opening Taiwan’s main railway line.
Besides advancing commercial development, the railway also brought prosperity to the big cities. In central Taiwan, for example, the harbor in Lukang was actually the most well-off city along the west coast during the Qing dynasty, but as the city was not part of the rail route at the time, the cities of Taichung and Changhua soon surpassed Lukang in just a little over a decade. After more than a century of development, the population in Taichung, a transport nexus for central Taiwan, has grown from 10,000 people to over a million, making it Taiwan’s third largest city.
With a burgeoning population and the need for continual urban development, the hindrance of the railway is fettering growth in the city. For dozens of roads in Taichung, it means they must either go underground or build platforms and bridges, and land located on either side of the rail line can also not be developed. Since the 1980s, calls for the railway to go underground have been continuous, and only recently was construction started on railway platforms to solve the problem of stifled development in the city.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)