The Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) yesterday said it would cancel the sale of standing-room-only tickets if it had adequate capacity and its tickets were easily available to all passengers.
Media have reported that the TRA is considering canceling standing-room-only tickets for Tzuchiang-class trains, its highest class of train, to maintain the quality of services on express trains.
However, the news upset environmental activists and students in Hualien and Taitung, who protested at Taipei Railway Station and Hualien Railway Station, demanding more tickets on trains heading to the east coast.
“Ever since I was a freshman in college, I have had to ‘stand’ on the way home almost every Lunar New Year holiday,” said Tseng Yu-han (曾雨涵) a college student. “Now they want to cancel the standing-room-only tickets. Do they think we’ll walk the Suhwa Highway home?”
Tsai Chung-yueh (蔡中岳), a representative from environmental group Citizens of the Earth, said the TRA should focus on raising its capacity, adding that the operator was putting the cart before the horse when it said it wanted to cancel standing-room-only tickets.
“It’s not news that train tickets to Hualien and Taitung are difficult to get hold of,” Tsai said. “It is more difficult to buy train tickets during peak hours or on weekends than to buy a plane ticket abroad. The TRA should make plans to raise its capacity during peak hours.”
Tsai said the TRA should explain why tourists to Hualien and Taitung get all the tickets, while students from Hualien and Taitung are never able to book online.
Taiwan Railway Administration Deputy Director-General Chang Ying-huei (張應輝) said it was unlikely the railway operator would cancel the sale of standing-room-only tickets in the short term.
Chang said the number of carriages used by the TRA was -insufficient to meet demand.
Many commuters also take Tzuchiang-class trains during peak hours and if standing-room-only tickets were scrapped, the TRA would have a problem transporting them all, Chang said.
“We may also have a problem rearranging the schedule if we attempt to raise the number of commuter trains,” he said.
Even if the TRA receives all the cars for the tilting trains it has ordered within two years, it is very unlikely standing-room-only tickets would be discontinued, Chang said.
The TRA yesterday also started taking orders for tickets on trains heading to the east coast during the Lunar New Year holiday. As of 4pm, about 500,000 had been sold.
Trains operating on the day before and on Lunar New Year’s Eve are all fully booked.