VIDEO: A brief history of Taiwan’s bullet train – News

Intercity transportation in Taiwan relies heavily on the high-speed rail line, which runs from Taipei in the north to Kaohsiung in the south. The trains are among the most punctual in Asia. But the service was hit by disruptions last week, just before a peak in holiday travel.

Taiwan’s economic development accelerated dramatically in the 1970s, threatening to overwhelm transportation systems along Taiwan’s west coast. Existing road, rail and air connections have proven insufficient.

Feasibility studies in the late 1980s concluded that a high-speed rail system would offer higher transit volumes, lowest land use, greatest energy savings and least pollution compared to other options. A public-private partnership was selected for the project, where a private entity would initially build and operate the system, then transfer ownership and operation of the line to the government.

Two major entities submitted bids to build the project in 1996, one relying on the Eurotrain platform and the other providing Japanese Shinkansen technology. The first was chosen in 1997, but after difficulties in raising capital and with the offer of subsidized loans from the Japanese government, the offer was reopened and the project was eventually transferred to the Shinkansen platform.

The railway connects Taipei in northern Taiwan with Zuoying, a suburb of Kaohsiung in the south. There are a total of 12 stations, with plans to extend the line south to Pingtung and to Yilan in the northeast.

The rail grabbed headlines over the weekend as it was forced out of business for most of Friday due to an accident near one of its tracks. This upset many, as it happened just before a long weekend and a public holiday.

A wrecking crew allowed an old silo to tip the wrong way and damage the electrical systems that supply the train with electricity. Fortunately no one was injured, but the incident became a place in the high-speed train’s excellent punctuality record.

Jose P. Rogers