Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) on Wednesday confirmed government plans for a high-speed rail (HSR) line extension to Yilan County.
During the announcement, Lin touted the economic benefits, particularly in tourism, from the Yilan extension, as well as the Kaohsiung-Pingtung HSR extension announced on Sept. 10. Lin also said the Yilan line would bring in commuters who have trouble buying tickets for Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) trains, which are frequently sold out during high-demand periods, such as long holidays.
Lin is correct that tourists and commuters would benefit from an HSR extension to Yilan, but neither of these demographics would pay for the extension with their ticket purchases or justify the cost of its development.
Lin said that up to 18,000 passengers per hour could be served by the extension, but government statistics show that the number of vehicles traveling through the Hsuehshan Tunnel (雪山隧道) peaks at about 2,500 per hour. Even assuming there were more than one person per vehicle and taking into account the daily average of 9,700 entries and exits at the TRA’s Yilan Station, the ministry would be hard pressed to reach a ridership of anywhere near Lin’s estimate.
Also, even once the extension is completed, it is unlikely that all travelers between Taipei and Yilan would take the HSR. Statistics on the line between Taipei and Kaohsiung show that roughly half of the people traveling between the two cities each year do so by HSR.
If the Yilan extension is to justify its estimated NT$95.5 billion (US$3.12 billion) price tag, the government would need to attract significantly more travelers to Yilan than it currently does. Since Yilan is not a financial or commercial hub, and since there are relatively few daily commuters between Taipei and Yilan, this influx of people would have to come from the tourism sector.
Although creating a transportation system for riders that do not yet exist might put the cart before the horse, the idea is not without merit. The government has been trying to make up for a decline in the number of Chinese tourists by promoting Taiwan to travelers from ASEAN and India — countries targeted by the New Southbound Policy. Yilan is a popular destination for Taiwanese tourists, and the county has great potential as a destination for international tourists.
A June article on top hot springs destinations on the Web site TripSavvy lists locations where the scenic environment is as much of an attraction as the hot baths. Places like Japan, Iceland and the parts of the US and Canada in the Rocky Mountains offer hot springs in quiet, idyllic towns surrounded by mountains.
People looking to take a hot springs vacation do not want to deal with the hustle and bustle of cities, which is a drawback of going, for example, to Taipei’s Beitou (北投). Taiwanese also like to visit Wulai (烏來) for hot springs, but getting there is inconvenient for international travelers, and riding a crowded bus up a winding mountain road is hardly the way to begin a relaxing resort vacation.
Yilan’s Jiaosi (礁溪) is the perfect place for a hot springs resort getaway. The town is picturesque, bordered by mountains and the sea, quiet and slow-paced — and if it is accessible in 13 minutes by HSR from Taipei it could easily be marketed to international travelers.
However, the government needs to put some effort into the town. It could start by renovating older buildings and putting restrictions on building appearances to prevent the tacky structures seen in some other tourist towns in the nation. Additionally, they should restrict scooters in certain parts of the town, or after certain hours, to control noise levels.
Developing the HSR extension hand-in-hand with Yilan’s tourism industry could be a win-win result for everyone.
With its passing of Hong Kong’s new National Security Law, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to tighten its noose on Hong Kong. Gone is the broken 1997 promise that Hong Kong would have free, democratic elections by 2017. Gone also is any semblance that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) plays the long game. All the CCP had to do was hold the fort until 2047, when the “one country, two systems” framework would end and Hong Kong would rejoin the “motherland.” It would be a “demonstration-free” event. Instead, with the seemingly benevolent velvet glove off, the CCP has revealed its true iron
At the end of last month, Paraguayan Ambassador to Taiwan Marcial Bobadilla Guillen told a group of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators that his president had decided to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, despite pressure from the Chinese government and local businesses who would like to see a switch to Beijing. This followed the Paraguayan Senate earlier this year voting against a proposal to establish ties with China in exchange for medical supplies. This constituted a double rebuke of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) diplomatic agenda in a six-month span from Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in South America. Last year, Tuvalu rejected an
US President Donald Trump on Thursday issued executive orders barring Americans from conducting business with WeChat owner Tencent Holdings and ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of popular video-sharing app TikTok. The orders are to take effect 45 days after they were signed, which is Sept. 20. The orders accuse WeChat of helping the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) review and remove content that it considers to be politically sensitive, and of using fabricated news to benefit itself. The White House has accused TikTok of collecting users’ information, location data and browsing histories, which could be used by the Chinese government, and pose
US President Donald Trump’s administration on Friday last week announced it would impose sanctions on the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a vast paramilitary organization that is directly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and has been linked to human rights violations against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. The sanctions follow US travel bans against other Xinjiang officials and the passage of the US Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which authorizes targeted sanctions against mainland Chinese and Hong Kong officials, in response to Beijing’s imposition of national security legislation on the territory. The sanctions against the corps would be implemented