Puyuma train launch carries hopes of eastern Taiwan travelers

Taipei, Feb. 6 (CNA) New "Puyuma" tilting trains made their debut Wednesday, bringing hope that railway service in eastern Taiwan will improve and traffic congestion in the region during the Lunar New Year holiday will be eased. The trains, which only received safety certification on Tuesday, began service on Taiwan's East Coast Line, the transportation lifeline for many residents along the country's rugged eastern corridor where road access is limited. 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, landslides and road collapses. A landslide there in 2010 took the lives of 19 Chinese tourists. The new trains pass through New Taipei, Taipei, Songshan, Yilan and Luodong stations en route to Hualien, the final destination. The Puyuma train will take about 2 hours and 10 minutes to go from Taipei to Hualien, roughly the same time taken by the "Taroko" series of tilting trains also in use on the East Coast Line. The Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) said it hoped the latest additions to its fleet would help ease traffic jams during the Lunar New Year holiday season, with Puyuma trains scheduled to make 56 trips between New Taipei and Hualien from Feb. 6 and 18. The new trains, which travel at 150 kilometers per hour, will provide up to an additional 2,000 seats per day, all of which are already booked for the holiday period, according to the TRA. The TRA ordered 136 of the tilting trains for NT$10.6 billion (US$359 million) from Japan in 2010 and dubbed them "Puyuma" after a naming contest that was open to the public. After delivery of the first batch of 16 trains late last year, the remaining 120 are scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2013, it said. Rail capacity in eastern Taiwan is expected to increase by 30 percent when all of the Puyuma trains are in operation, TRA officials said. (By Lee Hsin-Yin)