The Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) plans to turn an old train maintenance depot in Taipei into a boutique hotel to help pay off its debts which have accumulated over the years.
The nation’s largest railway system has accrued more than NT$100 billion (US$3.49 billion) in debt over the past 100 years. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications has asked the TRA to try to revitalize some of its assets.
The 16.7-hectare depot is located across the street from CPCity Living Mall and was used to maintain commuter trains.
Aside from the machinery for maintenance, the depot also has a public bathhouse, which has been designated a historical site. Built in 1935, the bathhouse is a legacy of the Japanese colonial era and was an exclusive perk for TRA employees. The water in the bathhouse is heated by the steam used to generate power for some of the machinery in the depot.
In 2009, the TRA decided to relocate the maintenance facility to Fugang (富岡), Taoyuan County. The relocation project is scheduled to be completed by the end of next year.
The TRA said that as the old depot is close to the Taipei Dome, rather than building a skyscraper, it could be renovated into a boutique hotel.
In related news, the Executive Yuan has decided to transfer the management of the Alishan Forest Railway from the Council of Agriculture to the TRA, with the latter setting the terms of the takeover.
Also built during the Japanese colonial period, the railway was one of the few logging railways in Taiwan. However, it has been beset by a series of problems because of lack of proper management.
Taiwan Railway Administration Director-General Frank Fan (范植谷) said the agency had reached a preliminary agreement with the council on managing and operating the forest railway.
“The bottom line is that the TRA cannot accrue any financial losses for managing the forest railway,” Fan said.
“All personnel and maintenance costs must be paid by the council,” Fan said.
Meanwhile, the service quality of the forest railway must also be upgraded to match that of any TRA branch line.
TRA estimated the council would need to budget a minimum of NT$500 million annually to keep the forest railway financially afloat and maintain service quality.