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Faster trains in Eastern Taiwan in final test

HUALIEN--The highly anticipated electrification of the rail line between Hualien and Taitung, expected to shorten travel times between the two Eastern Taiwan cities, is in its final testing stages, the Railway Reconstruction Bureau said yesterday.

Tests of the power supplies on the 166.1-kilometer railway section have been successfully completed, the bureau said, and final tests are now being done on the system's overall stability.

The trials are expected to be concluded in mid-May, to be followed in June by the inauguration of the electrified railway, Ministry of Transportation and Communications officials said.

The Transportation Ministry has made the project its top priority in 2014.

At present, travelers taking the train down Taiwan's eastern coast to Taitung have to change to diesel-powered trains in Hualien before heading further south because 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 because trains will be able to travel at higher speeds.

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

The bureau has also improved traffic conditions, including building extra tracks on four sections of the line to make simultaneous travel in opposite directions possible, according to Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) officials.

New tunnels and bridges have been constructed to improve traffic flow, said Yen Weng-chung, vice director of the TRA's Transportation Department.

“The project will significantly improve travel quality in the region and hopefully help attract more tourists,” Yen said.

Upon completion of the modernized Hualien-Taitung link, which cost NT$25.4 billion (US$843 million), all 17 of the TRA's “Puyuma” tilting trains will go into service. Currently, 13 of the express trains are in operation, running only between Taipei and Hualien.

The Puyuma trains are part of a railway upgrade undertaken in the region to help increase rail capacity and allow more travelers to bypass the area's main roadway, the narrow Suhua Highway, which is highly vulnerable to traffic jams and landslides.

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