Taipei, March 4 (CNA) Tunnel excavation workers met in the middle of a railway tunnel being constructed in Taitung, a landmark moment in the ongoing project to shorten the rail travel time in eastern Taiwan, the Railway Reconstruction Bureau said.
A ceremony was held that day at the Shanli tunnel, between Shanli Station and Taitung Station, to celebrate the milestone in the construction of the 5.3-kilometer tunnel, the bureau said.
The tunnel is part of railway electrification and efficiency improvement projects in eastern Taiwan, which are aimed at increasing train speed from 110 km per hour to 130 km per hour, the speed of a Taroko express train.
By straightening the rail route and laying double-track systems in several sections, Taroko express trains can be introduced between Hualien and Taitung when the first phase of the electrification project is completed by the end of 2013, the bureau said.
As a result, the travel time between Taipei and Taitung, with trains stopping only at Songshan and Hualien, can be cut down to three hours and 15 minutes.
Current travel time on the same route via the two stations is four hours and 40 minutes by Tzu-Chiang express trains, the bureau noted.
The bureau also estimated that the travel time between Taipei and Taitung may be further shortened to three hours if its proposal to build a more direct rail link between Taipei and Yilan is realized.
Meanwhile, the Taiwan Railways Administration said it has ordered 136 Taroko trains, which are scheduled to be delivered in September and October.
(By Wang Shu-fen and Kay Liu)