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TRA launches exclusive trains for cycling enthusiasts

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) yesterday began operating its “environmental protection train service,” with a group of 272 cycling enthusiasts taking their bikes into trains to start their pollution-free bicycle trips in northern Taiwan.

TRA Director Fan Zi-ku said at the inauguration ceremony that the environmental protection train service is designed to inspire a pollution-free way of touring Taiwan, and encourage more people to head outdoors to take part in environmentally friendly activities where they can deeply appreciate the beauty of Taiwan.

Fan said the TRA will implement the service on a three-month trial basis, then expand services in central, southern and eastern Taiwan, thus allowing cyclists to travel around the island in a zero-pollution way.

Excited by the news, many cyclists have suggested the TRA step up the pace to allow passengers to get on and off trains with their own bikes, as can be done on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT).

At the moment, the MRT allows passengers to board two designated trains with their own bikes, on holidays. By contrast, the railways now only allow passengers to do so on a group basis, and passenger groups are required to apply for exclusive trains to take.

In response, Fan said the TRA will move toward allowing passengers to accompany their bikes while boarding regular railway trains.

Fan noted that since trains stop at platforms for an average of one to two minutes, allowing passengers to board trains with bikes would make the trains fall behind schedule, potentially incurring complaints from other passengers. Accordingly, the railway does not allow passengers to take bikes on trains, only store them in special cars.

Besides the special train service opening in Hsinchu yesterday, the TRA will launch similar routes for cyclists from Hsichih, Taipei County to Miaoli County on April 19 and May 17, with stops at Hsichi, Sungshan, Wanhua, Shulin, Taoyuan, Chungli, Hsinchu and Miaoli.

The TRA said that to take these trains, groups of 10 passengers will be granted a 20-percent discount on tickets, and that discount will be expanded to 65 percent for 25 members, 50 percent for 50 members.

At the moment, each passenger of such groups is required to purchase two tickets, for the passenger and the bicycle.

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