The demand for tickets for the Puyuma Express operating between Taipei and Taitung has reached such a peak that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications is considering offering discounts to passengers boarding the Tzuchiang-class trains to Hualien or Taitung during off-peak hours to ease demand, Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuan-shih (葉匡時) said yesterday.
Yeh made the comments at a press conference encouraging people to travel to Hualien and Taitung using the public transport system.
Aside from the Puyuma Express and the Taroko Express, which are tilting trains, travelers can also board diesel-powered or push-pull Tzuchiang-class express trains if they want to travel to Taitung.
The demand for Puyuma Express trains rose dramatically after the launch of an electrified railway line between Hualien and Taitung, as the service has reduced the travel time from Taipei to Taitung from 4.5 hours to 3.5 hours.
However, many travelers have complained that it is difficult to get tickets for the Puyuma Express after the railway operator started a new train schedule yesterday and placed all train cabins in use, particularly for trains operating during holidays.
In response, Yeh said that two-thirds of the seats on the Puyuma Express are reserved for travelers to Taitung, whereas the remaining seats are for travelers to Hualien. To ease the demand, he said, the ministry is considering appropriating more seats for passengers to Taitung.
The Taiwan Railways Administration has already lowered the ticket prices for the diesel-powered Tzuchiang-class express train by about 3 percent, but Yeh said that it might be too small an incentive to attract buyers.
He said that the administration has proposed different fares for trains operating during peak and off-peak hours, and such a new ticketing scheme could be introduced in February next year when the railway operator is scheduled to present a new train schedule.
He added that the administration would spend the following two to three weeks gathering data on passenger volumes to determine an off-peak ticket discount.
Commenting on presales of Puyuma Express tickets in the next two weeks, Yeh said that the sales figures appear to have exceeded the ministry’s expectations and it suspected that scalpers had launched a massive buyout of tickets to resell them at higher prices.
“The fundamental solution to meet the rising demand for the East Coast Transport System is to make the entire Hualien-Taitung railway route a double-track system. It is also necessary to construct a straight railway route connecting Taipei and Yilan. Both Puyuma and Taroko Express trains are tilting trains and do not have to lower their speed when they drive through curves. If there is a straight railway route, Tzuchiang-class express trains can operate just as fast as the tilting trains,” he said.
The railways administration said that off-peak discounts would only apply to diesel-powered and push-pull Tzuchiang-class trains.
Off-peak hours may refer to certain hours during the day or certain weekdays, it said, adding that the proposal would be submitted to the ministry for further review.
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