Hochen touts tram-train

STIMULUS::While tram-trains and TRA trains would have to share some existing tracks, the light railway system may be extended to service Keelung’s outskirts

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Mar 29, 2017 - Page 4

Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) defended the government’s decision to build a tram-train rail system between Keelung and Taipei’s Nangang District (南港), saying the project is a worthwhile investment that would encourage development in Keelung’s outskirts and increase the number of visitors to the east coast.

The necessity of building the tram-train rail system, which is about 19km long and is estimated to cost NT$8 billion (US$265 million), has been queried by transportation experts and Keelung residents, as 90 percent of its route overlaps with a railway operated by the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA).

Passengers on the tram-train rail system would still need to spend the same amount of time commuting to Taipei as those on the TRA railway system, while the number of direct trains between Keelung Railway Station and Taipei Railway Station during peak hours would be reduced from five per hour to three, critics said.

Based on the Railway Reconstruction Bureau’s preliminary plan, tram-trains would operate on the TRA’s third railway line between Cidu (七堵) and Sike (汐科) railway stations and a new railway line would be built to connect Sike Station to Taipei MRT Nangang Exhibition Hall Station.

The plan showed that although tram-trains and TRA trains would have to share the existing track most of the time, the light railway system could be further expanded from Keelung Railway Station to other parts of the city.

For the tram-train system to work, a light railway line has to be built first, and branch lines would be added subsequently so that passengers could transfer to other locations, Hochen said.

“The Keelung City Government knew this, but it was willing to accept the arrangement because it has already identified places that might have more transport needs in the future, even though the city has yet to plan for railway construction in downtown areas,” he said.

Such places include areas surrounding Keelung Port, Hochen said.

International visitors arriving at the port on cruise ships have to walk to get downtown, he said, adding that most tourism-oriented ports around the world have a rapid transportation system.

The National Development Council and the city government are studying the possibility of turning areas near Baifu (百福) and Wudu (五堵) stations into a social housing zone which could accommodate a tram system, Hochen said.

The tram-train system would be a more reliable than the TRA system, Hochen said, adding that it could raise passenger volumes by 20 percent if a new signaling system is employed.