Experts concerned about sustainability of planned Taipei-Keelung MRT line

Taipei,  Some transportation experts on Wednesday expressed reservations about the sustainability of a plan to extend the Greater Taipei mass rapid transit network into Keelung, after officials touted the line as “a big step forward for Keelung” a day earlier.

The plan put forth by the central government and three local governments Tuesday aims to build an MRT line parallel to a section of railway that runs between Taipei and Keelung, but there might not be enough passenger demand on that route to sustain business on the two lines, said Huang Tai-sheng (黃台生), associate professor at the Department of Transportation & Logistics Management, National Chiaotung University.

“Only one of the two lines would survive” if the city governments of Taipei, New Taipei and Keelung proceeded with that plan, Huang predicted.

Furthermore, the plan poses the challenge of building an MRT line through a high density residential area and very close to an existing section of railway, he said, expressing doubts that there will be enough physical space for both lines.

He suggested that the proposal be revised to replace the railway line with an MRT line, which would allow Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) to focus on mid-to long-distance travel in that area, leaving the MRT line to serve passengers on short stops.

Lee Ker-tsung (李克聰), a transportation technology and management expert at the Consumers’ Foundation, Chinese Taipei (CFCT), expressed similar views, saying the allocated funds should be used to upgrade the existing TRA service in the area, instead of building a new line.

For instance, a direct railway line between Taipei and Yilan, which is under consideration by the government, would help alleviate congestion, as passengers would not have to go through Keelung, Lee said.

The proposal for the new MRT line to Keelung was formally announced Tuesday by Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) and the mayors of Taipei, New Taipei and Keelung.

The Keelung government originally planned to build an independent light rail between Taipei and Keelung, at a cost of about NT$10 billion (US$347.38 million). The Taipei-Keelung MRT, announced Tuesday, will replace the light line and is expected to cost between NT$20 billion-NT$30 billion.

Keelung Mayor Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) said Tuesday that the upgrading of plan to build a Keelung light rail system is the biggest step forward for Keelung in 30 years, as the city is seeking to extend the “industrial corridor” of greater Taipei into Keelung, and the new line will greatly benefit commuters and travelers.

Also commenting on the plan, a Keelung resident, surnamed Tai (戴), said Keelung residents have been waiting for three decades for a more convenient transportation solution, and it does not matter whether that comes in the form of a light rail or a MRT system, once it can go into operation soon.

The driverless trains on the Taipei-Keelung MRT will leave the starting points every three minutes and will have a capacity of 10,000-15,000 passenger rides per hour, compared to the estimated 5,000 per hour on the light rail, officials said.


Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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