Sugar railway extension project in southern Taiwan gets central government’s promise to provide support

The extension plan of a legacy railway in Taiwan’s southwestern county of Chiayi got a shot in the arm on Tuesday as the country’s minister of transpo

The extension plan of a legacy railway in Taiwan’s southwestern county of Chiayi got a shot in the arm on Tuesday as the country’s minister of transpo (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News)--The extension plan of a legacy railway in Taiwan’s southwestern county of Chiayi got a shot in the arm on Tuesday as the country’s minister of transport and communications promised to provide support after making an inspection visit to survey the project.     

Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) visited Suantou Sugar Factory (蒜頭糖廠) in Chiayi County where the proposed extension plan of the so-called “sugar railway” is located. The plan was proposed by Chiayi County Magistrate Helen Chang (張花冠).

The 762mm railway in Suantou Sugar Factory, which was used in the old days to transport sugar canes to the factory for sugar production, now is a tourist attraction, transporting passengers to take a tour of the century-old sugar factory and the neighboring farms.    

The sugar production industry was an important part of Taiwan's economy from the time of the Japanese Colonial Period (1895-1945) until recently. There were as many as 44 sugar factories in Taiwan prior to 1986, and most of them had formed their own industry village, including manufacturing facilities, residential facilities, a railway transportation system, and recreational facilities. Due to rising costs, most of these factories closed after 1986.

Chang said the planned extension of the sugar railway is to connect it with Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR) and South Branch of the National Palace Museum, providing a transportation tool with cultural and tourism value.      

Chang said that the first phase of the project is the 1.5-kilometer extension to the THSR and the second phase is the 0.8-kilometer extension to the museum, and the total expense of the project is about NT$160 million (about US$5.2 million). It’s estimated that the extended sugar railway can transport as many as 300,000 passengers annually, she said, adding that she hopes the project can be completed before next year’s Taiwan Lantern Festival, which will be held in Chiayi County in February and March 2018.