Each local government in Taiwan is independently responsible for planning its own mass rapid transit (MRT) network in accordance with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ review guideline for MRT projects.
For metropolitan regions that include multiple cities and counties, the integration of regional transportation networks is an important part of planning MRT projects.
However, it is difficult for local governments to push for cross-regional integration based on their own position and limited resources.
In response to New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi’s (侯友宜) call for the central government to coordinate transportation network integration, the ministry launched a policy communication platform to facilitate integration between Taipei, New Taipei City and Keelung.
The ministry hopes that the three cities will be able to carry out cross-regional cooperation to avoid overlapping investments and competition, which would allow them to set a good example for transportation networks nationwide. It was a good start for cross-regional integration.
It has been 18 years since the Taipei City Government began planning the MRT Minsheng-Sijhih line connecting Taipei with New Taipei City’s Sijhih District (汐止). Hou proposed to allow Keelung to join the greater Taipei MRT network via this proposed line.
Hou has expressed his willingness to allow a Keelung-line to share the tracks on the Sijhih-Donghu section of the Minsheng-Sijhih line.
Integrating the two cities’ MRT systems in such a way solves the problem of an overlap.
Originally, there were plans for the Keelung MRT system and the Minsheng-Sijhih line to build separate stations in Sijhih. Thanks to the integration, only one station would be needed, and the proposed two tracks can be reduced to one.
This would greatly reduce the required budget, and the operators would also be able to share the MRT depot in Sijhih.
This kind of cross-regional cooperation would bring great opportunities to the district.
There is also a proposal to build an automated pedestrian overpass at Taipei’s MRT Donghu Station to connect the projects to the Wenshan-Neihu Line.
If the authorities can further shorten the transfer distance, it would be much easier for Sijhih residents to transfer to the Taipei MRT network or the Taiwan High Speed Rail system from Taipei’s Nangang District (南港). This would also bring prosperity to New Taipei City and Keelung.
After the ministry successfully integrated the proposed construction projects, the light rail system planned for Keelung is to be upgraded to a regular MRT system, as it joins the Sijhih-Donghu section of the greater Taipei MRT network and extends to the MRT Nangang Station.
The line’s medium-capacity trains would be equipped with Automatic Train Operation (ATO) and Automatic Train Protection systems, which would improve overall passenger volumes and meet Keelung residents’ hopes for a real MRT system.
For New Taipei City, the medium-capacity system could maintain the level of its services, and for Taipei, the new system would meet its demand for an underground extension to the MRT Nangang Station.
The construction of MRT systems should, of course, be based on expert passenger volume evaluations.
For a system with medium capacity and above, it is appropriate to install the ATO system when the load exceeds 5,000 one-way passengers per hour to allow the system to give full play to its operational management strengths: short headway and high capacity.
Taipei, New Taipei City and Keelung are part of an integrated region, as millions of people commute, study or live in the greater Taipei area, and the river valleys running through the region offer great development potential.
After the Keelung MRT system is linked to Taipei’s Nangang via New Taipei City’s Sijhih, an initial estimate shows that the largest peak-hour load could increase to 7,000 to 13,000 passengers. In that case, it would be worth considering a medium-capacity system.
For the sake of national resource integration, if the central and local governments can work closely together to create a win-win situation by quickly approving and completing the systems, they would be able to resolve the transportation problem and win public praise.
Thanks to the cooperation between the central and local governments, the integration of a Keelung-Sijhih-Nangang line has set an example for cross-regional integration.
Hopefully the authorities will also find a win-win solution to the disputes over the line’s construction and management.
Richard Chen is former chairman of Taipei Rapid Transit Corp.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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