Forward-looking infrastructure: railways for the future

  • Date: 2017-04-24

I. Background

The Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program is designed to meet Taiwan’s development needs for the next generation, and among its components is a railway infrastructure plan to strengthen the nation’s rail systems in line with green traffic and transportation trends.

Although the need for rail transportation has grown among local counties and cities, many rail construction projects have stalled due to insufficient budgets for basic public works. The government has thus introduced a comprehensive plan for expanding the nation’s rail network—including main trunk lines, inter-city services and intra-city rail—to support Taiwan’s growth for the next 30 years. The systems will be designed with seamless connections and user-friendly features to make travel easier, safer and more reliable, attracting tourists and creating industrial opportunities to ensure sustainable operations.

The railway infrastructure plan will have a special budget of NT$424.133 billion (US$13.8 billion) over the next eight years (2017-2024), promoting 38 projects in five major areas described below.

 

II. Five infrastructure goals

A. Link the high speed and conventional rail systems into an integrated network:
1. Improve transfer services between conventional and high speed rail stations.
2. Assess the feasibility of extending the high speed rail farther south to Pingtung.

B. Upgrade and improve conventional rail services in eastern Taiwan:
1. Improve conventional rail services in eastern Taiwan to make service levels more comparable to those in western Taiwan. Complete electrification of the round-the-island railway system, and make all rail segments in eastern Taiwan run on the same type of power system.
2. Construct dual tracks along the entire Hualien-Taitung line, and increase the line’s route capacity.
3. Upgrade electrical equipment, integrate ticketing systems and improve service quality on the conventional railway system.

C. Move rail tracks above or underground, speed up commuter services:
1. Redevelop land at original station and track sites, remove level crossings, and promote land and general development.
2. Shorten conventional rail commuting times.
3. Improve the quality of conventional rail commuter trains and broaden scope of services.
4. Expand transfer capabilities along urban sections of the railroad.
5. Integrate regional transport services of conventional and high speed rail systems.

D. Promote urban mass rapid transit:
1. Provide seamless, quality rail transport services to alleviate traffic congestion in urban areas.
2. Enhance functions and service quality of urban transportation hubs, and promote development of businesses along metro lines.
3. Introduce “tram-train” light rail vehicles that can also run on conventional railway tracks. These hybrid vehicles can significantly cut government costs in laying railroad tracks, reduce land requisition issues, and extend rail service to more areas.

E. Build tourism-oriented rail systems for central and southern Taiwan:
1. Assess and plan connections between the high speed rail and Taiwan Sugar Railways (old mini trains that haul sugarcane to the Huwei and Suantou sugar mills). Use the corridor’s tourism potential to develop the local tourism industry.
2. Combine railway transportation with tourism travel. Rail infrastructure should blend into the environment without altering the landscape, and should boost tourism and local businesses.
3. Improve facilities on the railway system’s branch lines and ensure the quality of service on those lines.

 

III. Conclusion

As the nation looks to the future, there is a clear need for a new generation of infrastructure. For railway infrastructure, central government agencies will communicate, coordinate and collaborate with local authorities to integrate the rail and public road systems, providing the nation with a safe and reliable, fast and friendly railway transportation system. Aside from bringing cities closer together and improving the national environment, railway infrastructure will promote tourism and industrial development, improve the quality of life, and spur economic growth.