TRA conducts test ride of tilting trains

SMOOTH AND FAST: The Taroko Express, as the tilting trains are called, made the trip from Taipei to Hualien in under two hours instead of the normal three hours


Wed, Mar 21, 2007 - Page 4

The Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) conducted a public test ride of its tilting trains along the North Link yesterday.

"Alright," yelled a TRA driver, as the train -- also known as Taroko Express -- pulled out of Taipei Main Station at 2pm.

The tilting train is equipped with a mechanism that allows it to counteract the centrifugal force generated when driving through curves. Rather than slowing down the train, drivers of tilting trains increase speed slightly when negotiating curves.

The train yesterday only took one hour and 55 minutes to get to Hualien. That compares with a travel time of nearly three hours for the usual express trains, known as Tzuchiang Express.

Although the ride was a little bumpy at the beginning, it went on smoothly afterward.

Passengers who were seated could hardly feel the train tilt, but it was palpable to those who were standing during the ride.

The TRA started using the newly imported trains to transport passengers during the Lunar New Year, but it had yet to test the trains' ability to tilt.

TRA Director-General Chen Feng-nan (陳峰男) said yesterday that test-runs of the tilting trains would be completed soon. The first three groups of tilting trains will start operating on May 8.

But for now, the trains will only operate the Taipei-Hualien route. Ticket prices are the same as those of Tzuchiang Express trains.

Chen added that TRA would not sell standing room tickets.

"Some may want to board the train anyway even if they are told no seats are available," Chen said. "We will tell them that they might experience slight discomfort during the trip and advise them to take the next train instead."

A total of six trains will operate on the Taipei-Hualien route during weekdays. Two additional trains will be added to the service during weekends. That would expand TRA's train service capacity by 200 seats a day, he said.

Aside from inviting members of the media to the test ride yesterday, the TRA also called on Sung Ya-yung (宋亞芸), the winner of last year's train naming contest.

"I have traveled to Taroko Gorge before and thought it was just such a beautiful place," Sung said, explaining where she got the inspiration for the train's name.