Operation of the last two stations of the Taipei Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Xinzhuang Line were launched yesterday amid a small protest by supporters of the Lo-sheng (Happy Life) Sanatorium, renewing concerns about the safety of the line and preservation of the sanatorium.
The Danfeng and Huilong MRT stations were the only two stations that remained closed when the Xinzhuang Line opened in 2010. Taipei City’s Department of Rapid Transit Systems at the time insisted on demolishing the sanatorium to facilitate construction of the line’s maintenance depot. However, several protests followed, which halted the sanatorium’s demolition, and the two stations were launched yesterday while the maintenance depot is still being built.
“The department threatened that the Xinzhuang Line could not start operation unless the sanatorium was torn down to build the maintenance depot. The launch of the line is solid proof that the department was trying to fool sanatorium residents and the public,” a member of the Losheng Youth Alliance surnamed Kuo said in front of Huilong Station.
The department dismissed concerns about the line’s safety and said it would use part of the Zhonghe Line maintenance depot for train storage and emergency response measures before the depot for the Xinzhuang Line is completed.
The protest did not affect the stations’ launch ceremony. Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) attended the ceremony and took an MRT train from Huilong Station to Fu Jen University Station.
Hau said the two stations would make transportation more convenient for passengers and promote business opportunities in the area. He added that Huilong Station, which is to connect the MRT Wanda Line and an extension line to Taoyuan County, would further benefit residents outside Taipei City and New Taipei City.
Chu, on the other hand, said he was “not too satisfied” with the fare discounts to celebrate the launch of the two stations and said Taipei Rapid Transit Corp (TRTC) should consider offering more discounts.
Under the discount, the Danfeng-Huilong route will not be included in EasyCard fare calculations if users enter or exit at either of the two stations. The preferential offer runs until tomorrow and saves passengers NT$4 on a trip.
The TRTC said the three-day discount would benefit an average of 21,000 passengers per day, or a total of 63,000 passengers during the period.
The interaction between Hau and Chu during yesterday’s ceremony also drew attention, because both are seen as possible Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) contenders in the presidential election in 2016.
“It’s sheer speculation and the public is mulling the issue,” Chu said when approached by reporters for comments.
Hau joined Chu in dismissing the rumors. He said he and Chu have known each other since serving as professors at National Taiwan University.