Gov't mulls railway line to southern tourist spots
By Joy Lee, The China PostTAIPEI, Taiwan -- Travelers vexed by the drive down to Taiwan's famed tourist destinations in Pingtung County might be getting one more reason to head south in the future.
September 3, 2013, 5:03 pm TWN
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) yesterday announced that next year it will look into the possibility of building a railway line connecting Pingtung's Fangliao Township and Hengchun, Taiwan's southernmost town.
The link would make it easier for travelers to visit popular tourist attractions like Kenting, Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area and the National Museum of Marine Biology & Aquarium.
Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said that the current plan is to build a railway branch line terminating in Hengchun.
“Most people visit Kenting by road,” Yeh said. “Building a rail line to Hengchun could significantly cut down the number of cars entering Kenting.”
Railway Reconstruction Bureau (RRB) head Chou Yung-hui said that about NT$8 million will be spent to entrust a professional company to evaluate the possibility of connecting Hengchun to the rail system.
“If the evaluation finds in favor of the line, a comprehensive construction plan and an environmental evaluation assessment will then be conducted,” Chou said.
“If everything goes as planned, construction could begin as early as 2017.”
A rail link to Hengchun has been discussed since the 1960s, but no actual evaluation has ever been carried out.
“Rail is not only a way to commute but also a way to promote a different way to travel, taking time to visit each tourist spot,” Chou said. “Hopefully, the railway branch would change the way travelers view Kenting.”
According to the RRB, the railway line could also connect Kaohsiung's Xinzuoying Station with Hengchun, which would cut travel time by about 90 minutes.
“The railway branch could be operated by the Taiwan Railways Administration,” Chou said, “and the bureau is also not ruling out the idea of allowing private companies to invest in the construction.”
Chou said that after the line is completed, the MOTC would evaluate the possibility of extending it to Kenting, but that this would require further planning and evaluation as the tracks would run through Kenting National Park, which is a protected area.
Work to electrify the Pingtung railway system is currently under way and is scheduled to be completed by 2017, before Hengchun rail construction would begin. If the latter project was to be given the green light, Pingtung's Choujhou train station would be turned into a major transit center.
Over 7 million tourists visit Kenting annually. In recent year more people have been choosing to visit by taking the two-hour bus ride from Xinzuoying High Speed Rail Station.
As for the Hengchun Airport that only handles two flights per week, Yeh said that the airport might be closed if there are not too many opinions against the decision.