Mass transit beyond Taipei

MRT train arriving at Zhongxiao-Fuxing Station

The opening of the high speed rail in Taiwan has highlighted many issues related to transportation in Taiwan. One particular issue is that most of the high speed rail (HSR) stations are located outside of the city centres that they serve. Without mass transit links to the nearby major population centres all traffic to the HSR stations must be by buses, taxis or private cars on existing roads. 

Taipei with its MRT connecting to the HSR at Banqiao and Taipei stations is the exception. I earlier wrote about plans for the expansion of the Taipei MRT. Plans for mass transit systems exist in all the major metropolitan areas of western Taiwan. In the case of Kaohsiung the MRT system is set to open later this year. In other places outside Taipei the projects are still in the planning phase or early stages of construction.  

In an earlier post about sustainable transport in Taiwan Huang commented that the problem is not planning, but difficulty of raising capital from a low tax base (especially for local governments) and attracting patrons to public transport when present bus systems are poorly developed.

I agree with this and suggest that that rather than trying to build complex and very expensive underground rail networks, local governments should focus on building light rail and better infrastructure for buses. This has the advantage of not only requiring less capital, but also less time for planning and construction. In addition other methods of reducing traffic on the roads should be considered such as more toll roads or congestion charges.  

Looking to the future, I think in the next decade the HSR will be connected with good MRT networks in Taipei and Kaohsiung. In addition there will be several smaller rail projects connecting the HSR to other cities in western Taiwan.  

Below I have compiled details of the various mass rapid transit projects that are either in planning or construction phases in Taiwan. 

Taoyuan 桃園

Construction of the MRT airport link has already commenced. It is expected to open in 2011 or 2012. This line will run from Taipei Main Station to the Taoyuan International Airport via Sanchong, Wugu and Linkou. The line will extend from the airport to the Taoyuan HSR Station and Zhongli Railway Station forming the first stage of the Taoyuan MRT. There are also plans for a larger MRT network in Taoyuan with three lines.  

Xinzhu 新竹

The Neiwan branch line of the TRA is currently closed to allow construction work upgrading the line and construction of a spur from Zhuzhong to the Hsinchu HSR Station at Liujia. This will be part of the first stage of the planned Xinzhu MRT. 

Taizhong 台中

A news release from the Taichung County Government on 23 March 2007 reports that construction of the MRT Wuri-Wenxin-Beitun Line will begin in October. The 16.7 km line will cost NT$39 billion. This will connect the city of Taizhong with the HSR and TRA stations at Wuri. 

Jiayi  嘉義

A Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system is planned to connect Chiayi HSR Station with Chiayi TRA Station and the city centre. According to the Bureau of High Speed Rail website the system will begin operating on 31 August 2007. It is 29.65 kms in total length. The main line connecting the HSR station to the TRA station is 15.71 km and has 7 stations. Two extensions will connect to the central business district of Chiayi and Chiayi County Hall. 

Tainan 台南

The Shalun line which will connect the Tainan HSR Station with the Zhongzhou TRA Station is currently under construction. Expected completion is in 2009. Trains on this line will connect to Tainan via the existing TRA line. The TRA will operate the service between Shalun HSR Station and "New City" (新市) with intermediate stops including Tainan TRA Station. Trains will cover the 18 kms in 23 minutes.  (Wikipedia).  

On 10 April 2007 the Taipei Times and Taiwan News both reported that plans for an underground railway system in Tainan had stalled because of difficulties in funding the project. The Tainan City Government claims to be unable to afford to contribute NT$7.14 billion to the NT$29.57 billion project. An underground line is said to be necessary in order to preserve Tainan's historical buildings. 

Kaohsiung 高雄

The Kaohsiung MRT red line is set to open later in 2007. The red line runs north-south connecting international airport with Kaohsiung and Zuoying Stations. Transfer to the HSR will be at Zuoying Station. The 28.3 km line has 24 stations. 15 are underground, 8 are elevated and one is at ground level. 

The orange line will open later in 2008. This line runs east-west and is 14.4 kms long with 13 underground stations and one station at ground level (Wikipedia). A map of the red and orange lines can be found here

A circular light rail line (green line) is also planned. A map of the Kaohsiung MRT network including the light rail can be found here.

high speed train at Xinzhu HSR Station, Taiwan


The Bureau of High Speed Rail website contains quite a lot of information about plans for MRT projects in all the cities along the HSR route. However, the site uses frames and it is a little difficult to link to the individual pages.

Wikipedia contains a number of useful articles about rail systems in Taiwan. However, not all the pages are up to date and information about projects under planning or in construction is quite limited.   

Other references have been linked to directly or noted in the text. 

7 thoughts on “Mass transit beyond Taipei

  1. Me too, I do think the local governments should think about building the light rail asap. Otherwise the traffic everywhere in Taiwan will be in a mess.

  2. Interesting.

    BTW – With all that said, I find that Taiwan does a much better job of building mass transit solutions than many other countries of the same size and with a much higher tax rate (I can especially point out Israel and some countries at eastern-Europe).

  3. David, the government has a number of light rail “street tram” proposals at various stages of development. Aside from the one you mentioned in Kaohsiung, there are also plans to introduce LRT in Kenting, Tainan, Changhwa, Miaoli-Hsinchu, and Keelung. Since CIST and TRSC have already made a considerable investment developing a LRV for the projects, it would seem to be only a matter of time before one of them breaks ground.

    Finally, any thoughts on the Espoir maglev? Building elevated track through the middle of a business district is usually not the wisest idea, but there is no denying the need for a north-south line connecting Xinyi to Songshan. Nippon Sharyo, a stake holder in TRSC and the manufacturer of the Linimo stock, would be involved in supplying the vehicles so if the proposal is approved some technology transfer or local production could be a possibility.

  4. Huang, thanks for the additional information. It looks like I will have to research a new post on light rail projects in Taiwan. I was aware of the plans for the maglev light rail project in the Xinyi district, but I didn’t know about the others you mention.

    The maglev project sounds interesting, but whether its cost can be justified I don’t know. Coming from Melbourne I am a big fan of trams running on existing roads. Although the high traffic density and lack of space in Taiwan does make them less attractive here.

  5. Great article ! All in all, Taiwan is showing itself to be an example of how a moderately wealthy country can still develop sustainable transport systems …. given the right amount of density.

    Could anyone direct me to more information on the future Taoyuan MRT ? Seems like the Taipei – Airport – HSR station – Jhongli corridor is planned out, but how about the North – South axis ? Fast, efficient and clean transit will make a huge difference in the hellish urban jungle that is Taoyuan City today.

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