Taipei mayor-elect Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) and Yilan County Commissioner Lin Tsung-hsien’s (林聰賢) proposal yesterday to back direct rail service between Taipei and Yilan was yesterday criticized by transport experts, who said that such an important decision should not be made by politicians alone.
Former National Chiao Tung University associate professor Huang Tai-shen (黃台生) said the purpose of Ko and Lin’s meeting was for the two men to show support for the project.
However, the proposal would have to be evaluated by the Environmental Protection Administration’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Committee, to determine the project’s viability, Huang said.
National Taiwan University professor Jason Chang (張學孔) said that while he applauded Ko’s efforts to collaborate with county commissioners in an attempt to raise the overall standard of the Greater Taipei area’s transportation infrastructure, Ko should consult professionals over potentially problematic issues.
“The Railway Reconstruction Bureau has done a comprehensive study of the proposed project’s impact on the transportation system as well as on the environment,” Chang said, suggesting Ko talk with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications first before he made any specific decisions.
Taiwan Water Conservation Union spokesperson Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) called on Ko to understand the geography of the area where the proposed rail line would run, and gain a proper perspective of the implications.
“The proposed route is in a fault zone — a collection of fault lines — and is susceptible to landslides, not to mention that it would pass through Feitsui Reservoir’s (翡翠水庫) catchment area, which is an ecologically sensitive zone,” she said. “There are other municipalities that have a much more urgent need to develop transportation systems than Taipei. Ko should consult his staff and carry out a comprehensive assessment before making decisions.”
Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan member Tsai Chung-Yueh (蔡中岳) said it is almost impossible that the route proposed by Lin would pass an EIA, given its potential destructive impact on Greater Taipei’s water resources.
“Ko’s ‘fast, furious, and effective’ way of working while connecting patients to the extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation system will not work in this case, not with how an EIA works,” he said. “Ko should gain an understanding of the plan, not just listen to Lin’s side of the story.”
Railway Reconstruction Bureau Deputy Director-General Tang Jih-horng (唐繼宏) said that the bureau had previously proposed two different routes to be considered for the project, adding that in an April meeting representatives from the Taipei City Government opposed the proposed route cutting through the reservoir.
“We have chosen the route that would bypass the reservoir and have already conducted assessments on the project’s impact on the environment, with the final report scheduled to be submitted at the beginning of next year,” Tang said.
Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Frank Fan (范植谷) said the ministry respects the local governments’ opinions on the project, adding that there is room for further discussion as the project is still at the planning stage.
The route endorsed by Ko and Lin was the bureau’s first proposed option — to run from NanKang RailwaymStation to South of Toucheng Township (頭城) in Yilan County.
The second option would connect Taipei’s Nangang (南港) District and Toucheng, which is about 53km away. However, it would be constructed by going through Shuansi District (雙溪) in New Taipei City and Dasi(大溪) in Yilan County.
Construction costs for the two projects are estimated at NT$45.8 billion and NT$49.1 billion respectively (US$1.47 billion and US$1.58 billion).
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