The national railway network’s development should not be the job of local officials, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said yesterday during an inspection trip to Yilan County with members of the Legislative Yuan’s Transportation Committee.
Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) officials had failed to fulfill their duty in the past, approaching railway projects with the wrong mentality, he said.
Lin and the lawmakers were briefed by ministry officials on projects in the county, including elevating Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) tracks, extending the high-speed rail line to the county, connecting the Chiang Wei-shui Freeway (National Freeway No. 5) and the improved Suhua Highway and building a new Nanfangao Bridge (南方澳橋) in Suao Township (蘇澳).
Asked by reporters if the projects were pork-barrel items to court Yilan voters ahead of the Jan. 11 elections., Lin said the MOTC has not just launched transportation projects in Yilan, and he began reviewing the planned around-the-nation public transport network after taking office at the beginning of the year.
The ministry has introduced a policy to link west coast cities using the high-speed rail, whereas east coast cities would be linked using the proposed “express railway.”
The TRA and high-speed rail systems should be more closely connected, Lin said, adding that the Railway Act (鐵路法) authorizes the ministry to develop a national railway network plan.
Chiayi and Changhua counties have also proposed express railway projects, which the central government would take on one at a time, he said.
The central government should not pass the buck to local governments in planning railway projects around the nation, Lin added.
“Local governments might see elevated railways as a way of eliminating railway crossings, but the Ministry of Transportation and Communications should consider whether a rail line should be elevated, underground or on the ground by identifying the best way to enhance a rail system’s efficiency,” he said. “Such an evaluation would help the TRA transform its business model and enable it to compete with the high-speed rail system.”
The ministry would comprehensively plan railway projects from policymaking to funding, although the projects would actually materialize through the cooperation with the local governments, he said.
The last thing he wanted to see was for such projects to run into trouble through funding shortages, Lin said.
“What I am doing now is making up for the loss. The ministry in the past did not take its responsibility to balance the development of urban and rural areas an important policy goal. We now aim to help local governments resolve the difficulties they encounter when they propose railway projects,” he said.
MOTC officials also presented a proposal to extend the high-speed rail line to Yilan on a different corridor to the one proposed by the Railway Bureau to build an TRA express railway service connecting the county with Taipei.
The proposed extension would be further north from the Chiang Wei-shui Freeway and Feitsui Reservoir (翡翠水庫), which would avoid having to relocate dozens of households in Taipei’s Nangang District (南港) and allowing high-speed rail trains to operate up to 300kph.
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