Wed, Jan 22, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Rail project to cut travel time

TRANSPORTATION Put off by the expense of MRT systems, the government wants to upgrade rail services to make travel easier along the northern and western coasts

By Ko Shu-Ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Executive Yuan yesterday approved a five-year, NT$10 billion rail project that would expand suburban and local train services.

Once services begin in 2007, the traveling time between Keelung and Taipei will be reduced from over 40 minutes to 30 minutes. Trains will run every eight to 10 minutes during peak hours.

According to Chou Yung-hui (周永暉), director of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications' railway construction department, the project would do away with the need for expensive mass rapid transit (MRT) systems in and between major cities.

"Since the government cannot afford to build an MRT system in all major cities, the expansion of the railway system aims to replace the need for the system," Chou said.

The project is also expected to complement the long-distance service offered by the high-speed rail line linking Taipei and Kaohsiung, Chou said.

The 345km high-speed rail line is under construction and is expected to become operational by 2005.

The project was approved by the Cabinet in 1992 and its construction started in 2000.

It will cut the traveling time between Taipei and Kaohsiung to about 90 minutes.

Since the high-speed railway will offer long-distance services, Chou said that the railway administration will modify its routes to complement it by developing short and mid-distance transportation.

"The expansion of the railway administration not only saves money for the government but also acts as a new alternative for the railway administration in dealing with the possible impact of the high-speed railway system," he said.

Chou said that building an MRT line from Taipei to Keelung would cost NT$28.4 billion, while expanding the railway system is estimated to cost about NT$2 billion.

To offer more frequent train services, the railway administration will spend NT$2.1 billion buying 60 rail cars. Fifteen new stations will be built and 17 existing stations will be reconstructed.

Although the west coast, covering eight metropolitan areas, will be included in the project, the initial construction will focus on districts around Taipei, Taoyuan and Hsinchu counties, Chou said.

Projects include the construction of new railway lines connecting Patu and Nankang, and Yingko and Taoyuan, and reconstruction of the stations in Keelung City, Chunghua and Chiayi counties.

Construction will begin this year and is expected to be completed in 2007.

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