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Different pricing schemes set for express train travel

TAITUNG -- Fares on express trains in eastern Taiwan could have two price tiers after electrification of the railway line is completed in June, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said Wednesday.

After modernization of the 166.1-kilometer section linking Hualien and Taitung counties, express trains running on the new system will be faster, making different pricing schemes necessary, the ministry explained.

Fares on the diesel-powered “Tze-Chiang” express trains, which currently are the backbone of travel between the two counties, will drop as the TRA introduces new timetables in July, said Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Frank Fan.

While the new fares have not yet been finalized, an average 10 percent drop on those services is likely, transport officials said.

However, ticket prices on the “Tze-Chiang's” faster series — the “Puyuma” or “Taroko” — which run on electricity, will remain unchanged, the ministry said.

The fare between Taipei and Hualien on the “Tze-Chiang” trains is currently NT$440 (US$15).

The new policy could benefit some 10,000 passengers per day, the ministry estimated.

At present, travelers taking the train down Taiwan's eastern coast to Taitung have to change to diesel trains in Hualien before heading further south because that section of the line has yet to be electrified.

The new system is expected to save as much as 30 minutes in travel time between the two cities.

At present, the travel time between Hualien and Taitung is around 123 minutes.

Tests of the power supply on the railway section have been successfully completed, according to the Railway Reconstruction Bureau.

The Transportation Ministry has made the electrification project its top priority for 2014, which also includes improvements to rail traffic conditions by building extra tracks on four sections of the line to make simultaneous travel in opposite directions possible.

New tunnels and bridges have been constructed to improve traffic flow on the Hualien-Taitung link, at a cost of NT$25.4 billion (US$843 million).

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