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Hualien-Taitung electric railway to launch today

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The newly completed Hualien-Taitung electric railway system will be officially launched today for organizations for minorities and students, allowing them to experience Puyuma express trains, Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) announced yesterday.

According to the TRA, it will shorten travel time between Taipei and Taitung to 3.5 hours, boost overall transport services, reduce carbon and conserve energy. The convenient and rapid transit services will also spur tourism and related industries in Eastern Taiwan.

The TRA said that Puyuma express trains can travel 130 kilometers per hour, saving passengers approximately an hour of travel time.

Premier Jiang Yi-huah thanked the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), the Railway Reconstruction Bureau (RRB) and the TRA for years of hard work, which helped accelerate the completion of the project from March 2015 to June 2014.

During trial runs of the system in the first half of July, the MOTC should ensure that the RRB and TRA thoroughly test services and facilities from the user's perspective in order to ensure a safe ride and demonstrate the quality of the electrified system, Jiang added.

The electric line is expected to lift tourism and economic development in Eastern Taiwan, helping to generate NT$2.36 billion (US$77.7 million) per year, the MOTC said.

Once the other sections of the round-the-island railway system are electrified, Jiang said, the country will enjoy more train services, have dual options for east-west travel without the need for transferring, see fewer private vehicles on the road and benefit from less air and noise pollution.

Replacing diesel-fueled trains with electric locomotives also saves 16.7 percent energy while reducing carbon emissions equal to the annual amount absorbed by a forest 28 times the size of Taipei's Daan Park, according to the MOTC. This will help protect tourism resources in Hualien and Taitung and promote the region's sustainable development.

Ministry of Transportation and Communications Minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said earlier that this newly finished railway project will create about NT$20 million in profits for the residents of Eastern Taiwan.

According to Yeh, many tourists are attracted by the amazing views in Hualien and Taitung, and he believes that with the railway electrification project finished, more people will be able to travel to the beautiful eastern region of Taiwan easily.

Based on statistics provided by the MOTC, over 8 million tourists visited Taiwan last year, and the majority of them were from mainland China. Yeh said that the Tourism Bureau will work on attracting more tourists from other countries to Taiwan this year.

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The Taiwan Railway Administration's only Puyuma train driver Mai Ming-chi stands beside the locomotive of The Puyuma Express for a photo to mark the inauguration of railway electrification across Hualien and Taitung counties. Today Mai and his Puyuma Express will kick off the and Hualien-Taitung route after a ceremony. (CNA)

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