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Kaohsiung railway makes historic run underground

2018/10/14 19:36:20

Kaohsiung, Oct. 14 (CNA) Railway travelers in Kaohsiung experienced a historic moment on Sunday when a train departed on the city's first underground track for Hualien.

As railway enthusiasts and reporters gathered with flashing cameras, the No. 6188 express train pulled up to the platform at Zuoying Station at around 6:30 a.m. to take on passengers heading to Hualien County and other stops along a route that would run for 15.37 kilometers underground.

"I'm delighted to be able to witness this historic moment," said a commuter surnamed Wang, who usually takes the train to Tainan after a working night shift in Kaohsiung.

The underground railway construction began in 2009 with the goal of taking the railway line underground on a 15.37-km north-south route from Zuoying District to Fangshan District, with 10 stops along the way.

The local government said the project, completed at a cost of nearly NT$100 billion (US$3.23 billion), will create more open space in the downtown area of the southern port city, as the rails and a number of level crossings and overpasses will be removed.

At Sunday's inauguration ceremony, Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德) said the Kaohsiung underground railway project will also help alleviate problems of noise, air pollution and traffic congestion in the city's downtown area.

The project also represents huge progress in the city's development, according to a Pingtung University student surnamed Lin, who was on the platform to capture on camera the moment when the first train pulled up to the underground platform of Kaohsiung Station.

Lin said he and other railways enthusiasts were also at the station the previous night to wave farewell to the last train departing at the ground level.

With the development of the new and modern underground system, Lin said, he planned to seek a career at Taiwan Railways Administration after graduation so he could introduce the beauty of Taiwan railways to foreign nationals.

The next big infrastructure development in Kaohsiung will be an upgrade of its airport, according to Premier Lai, who said annual passenger turnover at the airport is expected to increase to 10 million by 2035 compared with 6.48 million in 2017.

Sunday's rail inauguration ceremony was also attended by Acting Kaohsiung Mayor Hsu Li-ming (許立明), Transportation Minister Wu Hong-mo (吳宏謀), and Presidential Office Secretary-General Chen Chu (陳菊), who served as Kaohsiung mayor from December 2006 to April 2018.

(By Cheng Chi-feng, Chen Chao-fu and Elizabeth Hsu)