Taiwan and Japan plan to launch a joint rail tourism campaign next month as part of expanding links between the two countries since a massive earthquake struck Japan in March last year.
In the campaign, dubbed “sister trains,” Taiwan’s CK124 steam engine and a similar Japanese train called the Hokkaido SL Fuyu-no-Shitsugen will be used to promote railway travel in both countries, authorities said.
The partnership idea came about during a visit to Taiwan by Japanese officials in April last year to promote tourism as part of Japan’s disaster recovery efforts.
After months of discussions and with the help of non-profit organizations, a promotional campaign was devised featuring a plan called “Train Travel: Winter in Hokkaido and summer in Taiwan.”
It is to be formalized on March 12 in a letter of intent signed by the Japan Hokkaido Railway Co (JR Hokkaido) and the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA).
“It is the first time that Taiwan has entered into such a partnership with a foreign rail company,” said Wang Chuan-hsin (王川信), the TRA division chief in charge of the project.
JR Hokkaido said the promotional campaign is expected to help revive the economy in northeast Japan, an area that was hit hard by the powerful earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11 last year.
The partnership is also a means to express Japan’s gratitude for Taiwan’s tremendous humanitarian aid in the wake of the disaster, JR Hokkaido said.
For Taiwan, the project also offers an opportunity to enhance cultural preservation, according to the Society of Railway and National Planning, which has been involved in the partnership.
“We hope Taiwan can take this opportunity to learn from Japan’s ways of preserving invaluable cultural heritage like these locomotives,” said Jen Hen-yi, a spokesman for the society.
Although the full details of the promotional campaign have not been finalized, the TRA said, it plans to invite its Japanese counterpart to take part in Taiwan’s Railway Festival in June.
The CK124, built in 1936, is one of Taiwan’s most popular steam locomotives and is widely used by the TRA for promotional purposes.
In Japan, the C11-171 engine that pulls the SL Fuyu-no--Shitsugen Train was manufactured in 1940 and operated in various parts of Hokkaido.