The government should consider standardizing all the nation’s railways to standard-gauge tracks, because doing so could enhance the economic efficiency of all train services, former Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) director-general Dong Ping (董萍) said yesterday.
Dong made the remarks as he received a lifetime achievement award from the Ministry of Transportation and Communications for building underground railroads in the 1980s and planning the construction of the high-speed rail network.
Dong said that the high-speed rail system uses the standard gauge system, which means that its tracks are 14.35m wide. However, the TRA’s tracks are 10.67m wide, which makes it a narrow gauge railway.
Upgrading the TRA’s tracks to standard gauge would increase the railway system’s economic efficiency in the next 10 to 20 years, he said.
“The upgrade would mean that the speed of TRA trains could be increased from 120kph to 200kph. This would see passenger volume rise as well,” he said.
Dong said that only 20 percent of train lines around the world use narrow gauge tracks, compared with the 60 percent that employ a standard gauge system.
He said that because the TRA can only buy trains from countries that use the same track width, it has a limited selection, meaning that what it purchases is not always the most cost-efficient, nor of the highest quality.
If both the high-speed rail and the TRA used standard gauge tracks, the administration’s trains could operate on the high-speed rail network, Dong said. This would give Taiwan an around-the-island high-speed train service, he added.
At the ceremony, Dong also spoke of his time in charge of the TRA.
He said that building the underground railway had been a huge challenged. At the time, there were about 200 trains operating in downtown Taipei a day, with 13 railway crossings along the routes.
“The biggest challenge was that none of these train services could be suspended while the underground rail was being built,” he said. “Many people also worried that the project would cause the Taipei basin to sink further due to the potential loss of a massive amount of ground water.”
“Meanwhile, none of the government agencies involved in the project were willing to finance it, including those in the Taipei City Government, the former Taiwan provincial government and the central government.”
Dong said the project was able to progress because of then-premier Sun Yun-suan (孫運璿), who vowed to take full responsibility for its success or failure.