The government has yet to decide on a location for the terminal station of a planned high-speed rail extension line to Yilan County, but would not implement any plan without the consent of local residents, Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said yesterday.
Wang made the statement after the Executive Yuan approved amendments to the Railway Act (鐵路法) in a Cabinet meeting in the morning.
The amendments would enhance oversight of railway safety and ensure sustainable operations of state-run railway services, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said.
Photo: Tu Chien-jung, Taipei Times
Wang said that he would attend an information session in Yilan on Saturday next week, in which he would discuss options for the rail link with local residents, lawmakers and local government officials.
“The high-speed rail extension line was proposed to facilitate transportation between the west and east coasts, and ease traffic congestion inside the Hsuehshan Tunnel on the National Chiang Wei-shui Freeway [Freeway No.5],” Wang said.
The project is the envy of many cities and counties across the nation,” Wang said, adding that the extension would cost about NT$170 billion (US$6.13 billion).
“The last thing we want is that the extension line is not welcome by the people of Yilan, given the huge amount of money that the government plans to spend on it,” he said.
A consulting firm hired by the ministry recommended four possible terminal stations — adjacent to Yilan Station, Luodong Station, Sicheng Station or at a yet-to-be built station near the Yilan County Government building.
Local media reported that most ministry officials prefer to build the terminal at Sicheng Station, as it would involve fewer home relocations.
During the information session, officials would lay out issues related to the four locations, including land procurement and the number of residents who would need to be relocated, Wang said.
Communications with local residents would continue even if no consensus is reached, he said, adding that officials would follow administrative procedures when finalizing the selection process.
Asked why the ministry and local residents have yet to reach an agreement after several information sessions, Wang said the key lies in being open and transparent about objectively collected data.
“We understand that people want the terminal station to be built in their own towns. However, people only take the high-speed rail once in a while, not every day. As such, apart from the terminal station, we also need to build a shuttle bus system and parking lot to facilitate the transition to the high-speed rail service,” Wang said.
“We want to inform people of all the practical matters to minimize controversies that might arise once construction begins,” he said.
Residents in Yilan remain divided over where the terminal station should be.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ou-po (陳歐珀) and Yilan County Council Speaker Chang Chien-rong (張建榮) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), along with about 100 Yilan residents, yesterday petitioned at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei to have the terminus built at Yilan Station.
Yilan County Commissioner Lin Tzu-miao (林姿妙) of the KMT and former acting Yilan County commissioner Chen Chin-te (陳金德) said that they support the station near the Yilan County Government building as the terminus.
Residents near Sicheng Station in Yilan’s Jiaosi Township (礁溪) welcomed the proposal to build the terminus there, saying that the ministry should honor the professional recommendations.
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