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Puyuma Express service kicks off in Taitung

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The new and faster Puyuma Express service was inaugurated Saturday morning in Taitung in a ceremony presided over by President Ma Ying-jeou along with Premier Jiang Yi-huah and other officials.

“Now I don't have to apologize to Taitung residents every time I visit here,” Ma joked, adding that the railway electrification is part of a nationwide project that began 40 years ago and that it should not have taken such a long time for them to enjoy the convenient service.

Travel time by train between Taipei and the southeastern city of Taitung was shortened to as little as 3.5 hours, making it easier for tourists to visit the scenic, but relatively remote part of Taiwan.

Depending on the number of stops, the new Puyuma Express can complete the journey in 3.5 hours or 4 hours and five minutes.

That compared with the 4.5 hours needed for the fastest train service available between the two cities up to now.

The shortened travel time is welcomed by many residents of Taitung County, who have complained of a lack of easy access to Taiwan's population in the northwestern part of the island.

The ease of travel is made possible by the electrification of the 155.46-kilometer section of railway between Hualien and Taitung, a project that took five years to complete.

The project includes straightening some of the curves and building a new 5.3-kilometer tunnel, allowing maximum travel speed to be increased to 130 kilometers per hour.

With the completion of the project, the travel time between Hualien, one of the biggest cities along Taiwan's Pacific coast, and Taitung has been cut short from 123 minutes to under 90 minutes.

The electrification between Hualien and Taitung is also significant, because it would turn Taitung into a good destination for day trips for Taipei residents, the president said.

“We're not going to stop improving the eastern counties of Hualien and Taitung,” Ma said, adding that there are more infrastructure projects to come.

The new system is also more environmentally friendly. It is expected to reduce energy consumption by 16.7 percent and cut down some 10,300 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, according to the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA).

In addition, it will increase travel capacity by up to 25 percent between Taipei and Hualien, and up to 40 percent between Taipei and Taitung, the TRA said.

The administration said tickets to the new electrified service were almost sold out for the trial runs from July 1-15, with some random seats still available between Hualien and Taitung.

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A Puyuma Express train travels on a bridge in Taitung, yesterday. The new experess service was inaugurated yesterday in a ceremony presided over by President Ma Ying-jeou. (CNA)

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