Transportation Minister Ho Chen Tan (???) hopes Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. (THSR) will expand its services, starting by taking over the passenger services of the Jiji railway line in central Taiwan from the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA).
Ho Chen made the wish at a ceremony held by THSRC Thursday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of when it began to operate Taiwan's only high-speed rail line commercially, according to a report by the United Daily News.
"I ask that THSRC adopt the TRA's Jiji Branch Line," the minister was quoted as saying while talking about the high-speed rail company's business over the next 10 years.
Seeing the high-speed rail line as no longer just an "intercity high-speed transport" system, Ho Chen said he envisioned it playing a greater role as a "Greater Taiwan mass rapid transit line" that is more integrated with other transportation networks in the country.
One way to bring this about, Ho Chen contended, was for THSRC to take over the general operations of the Jiji Railway while keeping the TRA as the supervisor and manager of the 30-kilometer long rail line popular with tourists.
Ho Chen did not clearly spell out how THSRC and the TRA would split up the responsibilities, but one scholar suggested the idea of a "train-railway separation model," under which the TRA is responsible for train and facility management while THSRC runs passenger operations.
The report said the minister brought up the idea based on the thought that the state-owned, privately-run company is capable of operating the branch railway line by integrating travel, tourism and investment resources.
Lin Hsiang-sheng (???), an associate professor at Chung Hua University's Department of Transportation Technology and Logistics Management, praised the idea as a way for the TRA to streamline its massive organization.
Lin said the agency suffers from rigid regulations, including one that restricts it from raising fares even as personnel costs have increased and become a heavy financial burden on the railroad's operations, according to the report.
Thanks to the flexibility THSRC enjoys in running its business and its pool of marketing talent, Lin said THSRC could take over the transportation services of the Jiji Line, which is close to the Changhua high-speed rail station, using a rehabilitate-operate-transfer (ROT) model.
Chang Sheng-hsiung (???), an associate professor of transportation management at Tamkang University, cautioned, however, that if the high-speed rail company wants to work with a TRA railway line, they will have to figure how to integrate their schedules, service network and rail network.
The Jiji Line, which runs from Ershuei in Changhua County to Checheng in Nantou County, is one of the country's four narrow-gauge railways that have been preserved for tourists. It travels through different villages surrounded by mountains and farmland.
Construction of the high-speed rail line began in March 2000. On Jan. 5, 2007 commercial runs kicked off on a trial basis from the railway's Banqiao Station to Zuoying Station.
Now stretching 350 kilometers with 12 stations, the high-speed rail line offers 960 train runs a week and serves an average 153,000 passengers a day.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel