Thu, May 11, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Delegation visiting Europe to observe tram-train systems

LEARNING TRIP:Officials from four cities planning to build light-rail systems joined the group to gain first-hand experience of how tram-trains operate

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications on Tuesday said that an official delegation is visiting Europe to observe tram-train system operations and development.

The ministry denied that the trip was organized after the Cabinet proposed spending NT$880 billion (US$29 billion) on the eight-year Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program.

Nearly 50 percent of the budget to be allocated for the program would be spent on building or enhancing railway systems across the nation.

The trip to Europe was organized by the Railway Reconstruction Bureau, the ministry said, adding that the delegation is composed of ministry officials, as well as transportation officials from Keelung, Hsinchu City, Taichung and Tainan.

All four cities have proposed building light-rail systems.

The group, who left last week and is scheduled to return tomorrow, mainly visited two cities — Karlsruhe in southwest Germany and Mulhouse in eastern France, the ministry said.

The bureau had arranged the trip to observe tram-train systems in Europe before the end of last year, as it had been conducting research into the feasibility of building such a system in the nation, Planning Division Deputy Director Shih Wen-hsiung (施文雄) said.

“The proposed construction of a light-rail system connecting Taipei and Keelung has generated a lot of discussion in March. Since we already planned to go, we thought we might as well invite officials of cities that are interested in building light rail systems to come with us,” he said.

The purpose of the trip is for officials to see for themselves successful examples in Europe and how they can be applied in their respective cities, Shih said.

The delegation met with European city government officials in charge of operating tram-train systems, Shih said.

“What we are concerned about is every city seems eager to hop on to the light rail bandwagon without giving careful consideration to practical matters, such as maintenance costs and the system’s potential impact on a city’s traffic, culture and other aspects,” he said.

Information provided by the bureau showed that Karlsruhe has a population of about 300,000, and is an industrial and technological hub in southwest Germany. The city has the longest tram-train route in the world. Its light-rail network covers 500km, including 400km for tram-trains.

Mulhouse also has a population of about 300,000 and is close to the Swiss and German borders. Apart from being an industrial and technological hub, the city is a popular holiday destination.

Both cities have succeeded in connecting urban and rural areas through the operation of tram-train systems, the bureau said.

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