South-link railway electrification project to enter key stage

Taipei--Traveling across the country on a fully electrified rail system is close to reality, as the last link of the network -- the south-link railway electrification project -- will enter its most crucial stage soon, transportation officials said Friday.

"The project will undergo a huge jump," said Wen Tai-hsin, chief secretary of the Railway Reconstruction Bureau.

Wen said the bureau will start to install cables inside the 42 tunnels that cover 40.8 kilometers of the overall 123.4-km rail section, which connects Taitung County and Pingtung County.

Between Sept. 6 this year and June 30, 2019, working hours on the south-link project will increase from five to 10 hours at a time during certain periods, to take into account the tunnel work, he said.

Previous work has focused more on getting the basic infrastructure ready, including track upgrades and reinforcement of surrounding slopeland, according to the bureau.

As a result of the increased workload, night services between 7 p.m. and midnight on the link will be suspended between Mondays and Thursdays, as well as on Saturdays, the bureau said, but added that services during the peak season of July-August will remain unchanged.

Passengers will have to take shuttle buses at a 20-percent discount during the affected periods, it said.

Commercial operation of the fully electrified train network is expected in 2020 upon completion of the south-link project, and the fastest train from Taipei to Taitung will take only 3.5 hours, either via the west coast or the east coast, according to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.

This is expected to make travel to and from eastern Taiwan more convenient, as train rides from Taipei to Taitung currently take five to seven hours.

Taiwan began to electrify its rail system in the 1970s, with the first such project completed in 1979 on the section between Keelung and Kaohsiung along the west coast.

The second such project was completed in 2000 on the section between Keelung and the northeastern county of Yilan, followed by the north-link line between Yilan and the eastern county of Hualien in 2003.

The Hualien-Taitung section, which launched its electric train service in 2014, has been the most recent to complete electrification.

Source: Overseas Community Affairs Council