MOTC criticized by Taiwan public over THSR extension plan

Many critical of NT$55 billion plan to extend THSR from Zuoying to Pingtung City

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Map of proposed THSR extension routes, MOTC selected the Red Line (Image from Executive Yuan)

Map of proposed THSR extension routes, MOTC selected the Red Line (Image from Executive Yuan)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Following the announcement last week from the Ministry of Transportation and Communication (MOTC) that the Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR) system will be extended from Zuoying in Kaohsiung to Pingtung City, many members of the public have expressed dissatisfaction at the news.

Since the government formed a committee tasked with selecting a route for the extended THSR line in early September, 1,674 people have submitted public comments on the project. Many local residents and professionals have expressed displeasure and criticized the plans.

According to reports, the project will cost a total of NT$55.4 billion (US$1.78 billion). In comparison with regular Taiwan Railways (TRA) express trains, the planned THSR extension will only reduce the journey from Kaohsiung by 10 minutes.

Unsurprisingly, many view the extension project as a large waste of taxpayer funds. Many have suggested that the money would be much better spent on refurbishing the existing TRA rail lines and stations to improve quality and access to the existing lines, reports UDN.

TRA already provides at least two trains every half hour between Pingtung and Kaohsiung. The general fare to ride TRA from Pingtung to Zuoying and transfer to the THSR to Taipei averages about NT$2000 (US$64). With only a 10 minute difference between existing 25 minute transit on the TRA lines to Kaohsiung and the proposed THSR line, some local residents don’t see the need for the extension.

One commentator observed that many residents in the region are elderly, and most do not travel that often. Pingtung already has a near derelict commercial airport, and the commentator expressed concern that the same fate would befall the Pingtung THSR station.

Others have expressed dissatisfaction with the plans by declaring that building the station in Pingtung City is meaningless if the THSR line stops there. Some public commentators advocate skipping Pingtung City entirely, and just building the next THSR stop farther south on the Hengchun Peninsula, closer to Kenting.

Providing more direct access to the tropical tourist destination of Kenting would be a much better investment than stopping the tracks short at Pingtung City and forcing another transfer, they argue. Their view is that if the government doesn’t have the funds, or is unwilling to construct track all the way south, then ending the track in Pingtung will be a wasteful expenditure.