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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.