Chanting slogans such as “give me a ticket home and don’t give me bullshit,” a group of students from eastern Taiwan yesterday made an appeal to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) for more trains between Taipei and their homes.
“We demand to have 15,000 train seats [4,000 more than the current availability] each way on a daily basis before the Lunar New Year in 2009,” said Tsai Chung-yueh (蔡中岳), a Hualien native who attends National Taipei University. “By redistributing train cars and modifying the current train schedule, this can be feasibly done.”
Accusing the ministry of operating the national railway system based on profit but not public welfare, the students said the ministry neglects the fact that there are not enough eastbound trains to accommodate the traffic flow.
“Unlike people in the west, we do not have the high speed railway [and the Suhua Highway is undependable], so the train becomes our [only] remaining option,” said Pan Hsin-jung (潘欣榮) of Hualien, who graduated from National Taiwan University this year.
With the seat shortage, many people from the east coast who work in the west cannot get a ticket home, especially during national holidays, Pan said.
“Eastbound travelers often have to stand for three to four hours on the trains to Taipei and back. Other times the train tickets are completely sold out and we can’t even go home,” he said.
Saying that the government allows the MOTC to staff too few drivers and allocate too few eastbound trains, only providing more trains during weekends to accommodate tourists, Pan asked: “Are Hualien and Taitung people second class citizens? Why do we dutifully pay our taxes like others but receive so few public benefits?”
Although the government said that it was working on purchasing more Taroko Express train cars to help alleviate the shortage, Tsai said it could make do with the current resources.
“If the ministry reallocated some mostly empty Tze-Chiang Express cars on westbound trains to the east, the seat deficiency could be alleviated before the government purchases more trains,” Tsai said.
In response, Department of Railways and Highways head Liu Shih-ming (劉士銘) said: “It would be difficult to have 15,000 seats each way now, but we hear the students and will work with the Taiwan Railway to accommodate their needs.”
Starting Oct. 24, the ministry will begin to offer four more eastbound trains daily — two each way — which would add 760 more seats each way, Liu said.
The students’ demand would be met when the government purchases 48 more Taroko Express cars in the next two years, he said.
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