Fri, Sep 04, 2009 - Page 2 News List

MOTC unclear when Alishan tour buses will resume

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said yesterday it did not know when Highway 18, also known as the Alishan Highway, would be accessible to medium-sized tour buses after the road was severely damaged by Typhoon Morakot.

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) said in Kaohsiung on Wednesday that tourists would be able to visit Alishan by Sept. 10, but following a weekly MOTC meeting, Director-General of Highways Lin Chih-ming (林志明) said the highway should be open by Sept. 10 only to four-wheel-drive jeeps that can carry supplies to communities cut off by the typhoon.

The Directorate-General of Highways hoped to enable sedans and other small passenger vehicles to use Highway 18 by Sept. 20. It has not said when the road will be open to tour buses.

Medium-sized tour buses carry 20 passengers or less.

Tourism Bureau Director-General Janice Lai (賴瑟珍) said medium-sized shuttles would be provided by Chiayi Bus (嘉義客運) between Chiayi and Alishan. The bureau will not allow large tour buses on the highway until repairs are complete, Lai said.

As to when the bureau would allow tourists to travel to Alishan, Lai said it depended on the progress of the highway repairs.

Lai added that the bureau was conducting an evaluation on the feasibility of building a cable car up to the Alishan Forest Area or other scenic areas high in the mountains.

The cable car was proposed by the Council for Economic Planning and Development and the bureau was instructed to conduct preliminary research and an evaluation of the project’s feasibility, Lai said.

“Ideally, we would want the cable car to start from Chukou [觸口] at the headquarters of Alishan National Scenic Area. We are still evaluating different options,” Lai said.

In related news, Yushan National Park will not reopen to the public until Oct. 15, park officials said.

The park, covering Kaohsiung, Chiayi, Nantou and Hualien counties, has been closed since Aug. 5.

The storm caused severe damage to key roads that connect the park with the outside world and many mountain trails.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA

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