Wed, Nov 14, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Buses to be allowed on Chiang Wei-shui Freeway

WAIT IS OVER Large vehicles are required to enter three control centers along the freeway and must be checked for a number of things before using the road

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Starting tomorrow, large passenger vehicles will be allowed to operate between Shihding (石碇) in Taipei County and Toucheng (頭城) in Ilan County on the Chiang Wei-shui Freeway (Freeway No. 5), the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau said yesterday.

The section, which includes the Hsuehshan Tunnel, has been open to cars since June last year. Assuming it might take time for motorists to get used to driving in long tunnels, the bureau decided to wait to open the tunnel to larger vehicles.

The 12.9km-long tunnel is the longest in Taiwan and the fifth-longest in the world.

Bureau Director-General Lee Tai-ming (李泰明) said yesterday that motorists have generally been abiding by the tunnel's special traffic regulations since it opened last year.

Lee added that drivers of large-size passenger vehicles must also adhere to several important traffic rules after the policy takes effect tomorrow.

Lee said that large passenger vehicles include tour buses, freeway buses and those used by government organizations and private firms to transport employees.

The new policy states large vehicles must be thoroughly checked before they use the road. Items that must be checked include fuel, electricity, water tanks, tires, brakes, fire extinguishers and emergency exits and hammers.

Should the vehicle break down inside the tunnel because of a lack of tire tread, insufficient fuel, electricity, or water, motorists may be fined between NT$600 and NT$1,200.

Large vehicles must enter all three control centers along the freeway, where inspectors will randomly select vehicles and see if they have followed all the relevant regulations.

Lee said that the regulations, however, are general rules required by the vehicle registration departments. None of them is specifically designed to check if these vehicles are safe to be driven inside the tunnel, he said.

One of the control centers is located in Wutu (烏塗), which monitors the southbound vehicles. The other two, in Toucheng and Pinglin (坪林), examine buses heading to Taipei.

Large vehicles are asked to stay in the right-hand lane. Drivers must keep their speed at 70kph and must also maintain a safe driving distance of 50m from the vehicle in front of them.

Prior to the launch of the new policy, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications has held a media campaign to inform motorists of the new regulations.

In related news, two passenger bus companies may begin their services on National Freeway No.5 soon.

Kamalan Bus Inc (葛瑪蘭客運) and Capital Bus (首都客運) have been chosen by the Directorate General of Highways to be the two firms to operate on the freeway.

Kamalan announced this week that its services will begin tomorrow, whereas Capital said their services will not start until next month.

Kamalan's Web site showed that a one-way ticket from Taipei to Ilan will cost NT$155.

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