Bringing MRT Networks to Taoyuan and Taichung

The Kaohsiung MRT. Photo: Wikipedia

After a decade of discussion and planning, construction began last October on an MRT system for the northern Taiwan city of Taoyuan, starting with a 27.8-kilometer Green Line. At the groundbreaking ceremony, Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan hailed the event as reflecting the city’s “coming of age.”

The first portion of the Green Line will be a 15.3-kilometer elevated section, with the remainder of the line underground. The total budget is set at NT$98.3 billion (US$3.2 billion).

Serving 21 stations, the Green Line will pass through the city’s four major districts: Bade, Taoyuan, Luzhu, and Dayuan. Scheduled to start operating in 2025, the line will connect with the Airport MRT at the Kengkou and Hengshan stations.

The line’s electromechanical system, to be supplied by Siemens, will incorporate a number of smart functions in terms of operational controls, energy conservation, and maintenance and repair. For example, sensors on the rails will be able to detect any abnormal conditions, and in-car lighting will be adjusted automatically on the basis of big-data analysis.

Maintenance and repair technicians will be able to hone their skills using augmented reality devices. In addition, pregnant women will have use of an inductive magnetic button triggering a melody when they enter the car, reminding other passengers to yield priority seats to them.

Taoyuan meanwhile is also preparing to start construction of the 11.5-kilometer, NT$19.6 billion Brown Line, which will serve the Taoyuan and Guishan districts. The feasibility study was approved by the Executive Yuan in 2018.

Taoyuan MRT route map. Photo: Wikipedia

The Brown Line will connect with both the Green Line and the Airport MRT. The city government even envisions an eventual link-up with the Taipei MRT to create a transportation network for greater Taipei in which all points can be covered within one hour.

In central Taiwan, preparation of Taichung’s 18-station Green Line, its first MRT facility, is more than 80% completed. The system is now undergoing testing in readiness for its scheduled inauguration in 2020. The construction cost has been estimated at NT$59.3 billion, almost double the original budget.

The 16.7-kilometer line will start from the Beitun District and end at the Taichung High-Speed Rail station. It will also connect with the conventional rail network of the Taiwan Railway Administration.

Construction of an MRT station in Taichung. Photo: Wikipedia

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications has already approved the feasibility study for an east-west Blue Line to intersect with the north-south Green Line.

With a budget of NT$84.16 billion, the 21.3-kilometer Blue Line will pass along Taiwan Boulevard, Taichung’s main artery. It will have 15 stations, six elevated and nine underground.

In southern Taiwan, the new mayor of Kaohsiung, Han Kuo-yu, has suspended engineering work on a second-stage light rail system, citing strong opposition from citizens worried that the ground-level line would cause chronic traffic jams. The 8.7-kilometer first-stage system, which passes through the coastal Asia New Bay Area, went into service in September 2017. Last year the number of passengers averaged only 9,251 daily.

Besides the light rail, the Kaohsiung MRT system consists of intersecting Red and Orange Lines, both inaugurated in 2008 after construction costs totaling NT$180 billion. Originally a BOT (build-operate-transfer) project, the network was taken over in 2013 by the Kaohsiung government, which put in another NT$26.3 billion to offset the project’s heavy losses. Ridership on the Kaohsiung MRT averaged only 177,000 passengers in 2018, a far cry from the 2.3 million for the Taipei MRT.

The fate of the proposed third Kaohsiung MRT line, the Yellow Line, is also uncertain under the new city government, although the feasibility study passed the central government’s preliminary screening.