Ticket sales counter for the HSR at Banqiao Station
Finally, after months of delays and uncertainty surrounding Taiwan's High Speed Rail project it will open tomorrow.
A number of other blogs have written about the upcoming opening. The Bala Daily reports on buying a ticket at Taipei Station. Nostalgiphile links to some articles from the Chinese language press. Michael Turton also has something to say about it.
There is also plenty being written about it in the papers. A good article in the International Herald Tribune details some of the challenges the train faces if it is to be a success.
After a quarter-century of planning and construction, the system is finally scheduled to open Friday. It will tie together cities and towns holding 94 percent of Taiwan the island's population, offering an alternative to clogged highways and the air pollution they produce.
For some urban planners and environmentalists, the project is an example of how Asia may be able to control oil imports, curb fast-rising emissions of global-warming gases and bring a higher standard of living to enormous numbers of people in an environmentally sustainable way.
It is inevitable that when commissioning a new system like this there are bound to be a few problems. However, I suspect the major problem that will emerge over the next few months will not be in the actual rail system itself. It will be related to most of the stations being remote from the centre of the cities they serve. It is only in Taipei that the system will integrate seamlessly with the MRT and Taiwan Railways.
The long term success of the HSR really depends on thoughtful development of the areas around the stations and good transport links between the stations and the nearby city centres. The Kaohsiung MRT is expected to open later this year. However, the Airport MRT link which will connect the Taipei Taoyuan International Airport with the Taoyuan and Taipei HSR Stations won't be open until at least 2011.
The HSR system operating at full capacity may significantly reduce the traffic on the north-south freeways. However, it is quite possible that traffic congestion could increase in the areas around the stations and between the stations and city centres. It is vital that the government makes it a priority to ensure development around the stations occurs in an carefully planned way. The further development of mass rapid transit systems outside Taipei and Kaohsiung is also very important.
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I went to Banqiao Station this morning and bought tickets for the HSR early next week. Watch this space for some more photos and a full report on the ride.
Ticket gates for the HSR at Banqiao Station