Mon, Oct 15, 2007 - Page 2 News List

THSRC may share tracks with Taiwan Railway: ministry

PROJECTS The proposal suggested that a third rail line be built, which would allow the high speed rail to operate from Taipei to Pingtung

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Faced with questioning from the nation's railway enthusiasts, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said yesterday that it is still evaluating the possibility of having the nation's two largest railway systems share the same railway tracks from Kaohsiung to Pingtung.

"It [the Taiwan High Speed Rail Co (THSRC) and the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) using the same railway lines] is merely a proposal at this stage," the MOTC said in a statement issued yesterday. "More assessment needs to be done on this particular issue."

The statement further emphasized that the Bureau of High Speed Rail and the TRA have been respectively instructed to examine train scheduling and other relevant issues.

The ministry also said in the statement that the Railway Reconstruction Bureau has evaluated the feasibility of turning the railway tracks between Kaohsiung and Pingtung into a dual-gauge system.

Currently, the international standard gauge is 1,435mm. While the THSRC adopts the standard gauge, TRA uses a narrower gauge of 1,067mm.

The proposal suggested that a third rail line be built next to the existing two rails, enabling trains of two different gauges to share the same track. Such an arrangement would allow the high speed rail to operate all the way from Taipei to Pingtung.

So far, THSRC's terminal station in the south is in Tsoying (左營), Kaohsiung.

The statement mentioned that the two projects scheduled FOR submission to the Executive Yuan this week are related to construction of underground railways in Kaohsiung City and the MRT system in Pingtung County's Chaochou (潮州).

The ministry said it is simply following the administrative timeline arranged previously.

The proposal was first unveiled to the media last year by the MOTC vice minister Ho Nuan Hsuen (何煖軒), when he was the TRA's acting director general.

Ho said that having a third rail line would allow trains to run faster.

Railway enthusiasts, however, opposed the idea.

Cheng Min-chang (鄭銘彰), chairman of the Railway Culture Society, said in a letter to the editor to the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister paper) last month that the safety and the stability of the dual-gauge system is questionable because the TRA and THSRC must first integrate two essentially different signaling systems.

Cheng said that countries that chose to adopt the dual-gauge system are generally restricted by topographical factors. Meanwhile, he said that experiences in other countries showed that the system does not help elevate operational speed either.

"The solution is to build a mass-transit system in the Kaohsiung-Pingtung area, which potentially poses greater benefits than this controversial proposal," the letter said.

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