Taipei-An initial review of plans to extend the high speed rail network from Taipei to Yilan County in eastern Taiwan has determined them to be feasible, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (???) said Wednesday.
Although the determination follows an initial feasibility assessment, a review of construction technology, environmental impact, finances and economic benefits has not yet been conducted, Lin told reporters before a legislative hearing.
Lin's remarks came after a local daily newspaper reported earlier the same day that the nearly NT$100 billion (US$3.26 billion) project would reduce travel time from Taipei's Nanggang District to Yilan to just 13 minutes.
The extension would also help reduce heavy traffic in Hsuehshan Tunnel on the Taipei-Yilan Freeway, while connecting Taipei with eastern Hualien and Taitung counties more easily, which he said is key to completing an island-wide rail system.
An efficient and environmentally friendly transportation network that connects every region in Taiwan will not only deepen cultural and tourist development, it is also extremely important to boost industrial progress, according to Lin.
With the government eager to strike a balance in regional development, the extension of the network to Yilan would foster development in that part of Taiwan. Coupled with new lines planned by Taiwan Railways Administration in eastern Taiwan, it would make it possible to travel around the island in six hours, he noted.
Speaking during the legislative hearing, Bureau of High Speed Rail Director-General Allen Hu (???) estimated that if the environmental impact assessment is approved, the system's 50-kilometer Taipei-Yilan extension would take nine to 10 years to complete.
Travel time would be around 13 minutes between the two destinations, which would see 15 trains in service carrying 18,000 passengers per hour at peak times, Hu said.
Meanwhile, Yilan County government Secretary-General Lin Mao-sheng (???) welcomed the feasibility assessment, saying an extension of the bullet train network would certainly help local tourism and employment.
However, Taipei Feitsui Reservoir Administration expressed concern about the potential extension of the service, insisting that the reservoir catchment area must remain intact to ensure the safety of tap water for 5-6 million consumers in the greater Taipei area.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel