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Taipei mayor slams Danhai light rail project

LRT will lose money because of population changes: Ko

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The Danhai LRT.

The Danhai LRT. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je said Friday the Danhai light rail project stood to lose considerable amounts of money because demographic trends had not been taken into account.

The two lines of the Danhai Light Rail Transit system are under construction in the New Taipei City district of Danshui, where they are expected to relieve the heavy pressure of traffic due to an increasing population and to massive weekend tourism.

However, on Friday, the outspoken Ko criticized the rationale behind the project. “Many public transportation and construction projects did not take changes in the population of Taiwan into account,” the mayor said.

More than half the new apartments along the Danhai LRT were empty, so the project stood to lose significant amounts of money, he reportedly added.

The capital’s mayor said that it was wrong to demand mass rapid transit (MRT) trains go everywhere, and that often quick bus lines were more likely to solve transportation problems.

Discussing Taipei’s traffic issues at a city government meeting, Ko said that originally, the MRT was seen as the most important means of transportation, followed by buses, the Youbike system, and walking. Buses which connected to MRT stations were as important as the trains themselves, he said.

Ko named Keelung City and the Xizhi District of New Taipei City as areas clamoring for an MRT line, but he said he only advocated rail traffic if there was a sufficient amount of passengers to support it. In many cases, buses following a simple straight route were enough to resolve the problem, the mayor said.

Ko predicted that the population of Taiwan as a whole would drop, though probably not the number of residents in Taipei City.

Reacting to the mayor’s comments, the New Taipei City Government said the population of Danshui was still growing by more than 3,500 people a year, while the LRT system would also help the increasing number of tourists.

The Danhai LRT will consist of an 11-station Green Mountain Line and a nine-station Blue Coast Line. The former could start operations in late 2018, the latter in 2024.