President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday discussed the significance of the nation’s railways as a historical and cultural asset, promising to promote railway culture to the world.
In an online show, Ma and railway expert Su Chao-hsu (蘇昭旭) discussed the history of Taiwan’s railway network, which began when then-Taiwan provincial governor Liu Ming-chuan (劉銘傳) began constructing 28.6km of track from Taipei to Keelung in 1887.
During the Japanese colonial era, the authorities continued to develop the railway network. By 1945, it covered more than 750km.
Ma said railways and trains represented the changes that Taiwanese society had underwent, becoming a collective memory of many Taiwanese.
“We should promote railway transportation as it is economic and energy-saving,” he said. “The history of railways should also be well-preserved and promoted because it carries great significance, culturally and historically.”
Su said many railways, such as the Alishan Forest Railway and wooden railway stations, have become popular tourist attractions.
The Alishan Forest Railway system has also become a “sister railway” with Japan’s Oigawa Railway system, Su said.
“The government should put more effort into railway diplomacy and promote railways as significant cultural and historical assets,” he said.
Ma said that railways and trains could play a role in the nation’s cultural exchanges with other countries, and the government and civic groups should work together to promote and preserve Taiwan’s railway culture.
Ma’s weekly online program, launched in July 2009, came to an end yesterday.
Presidential Office spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi (范姜泰基) said Ma would continue to communicate with the public via his Facebook page and online venues.