Taipei-Yilan rail rethink criticized

By Chi-hao James Lo ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A proposal raised by Taipei Mayor-elect Ko Wen-je (�_����) yesterday to reroute a railway between Taipei and Yilan through a major reservoir raised questions.

Ko met with re-elected Yilan Magistrate Lin Tsung-hsien (�L�o��) in Yilan County yesterday to discuss various solutions to problems affecting both Taipei and Yilan. During their meeting, Ko and Lin exchanged ideas about dealing with the ongoing debates revolving around education and the recent food contamination scandals. However, the main issue under discussion involves the construction of the Beiyi Direct Railway (�_�y���u�K��) from Taipei to Yilan. Lin said that the route, which starts from the Nangang District of Taipei and runs to the Dasi and Toucheng townships of Yilan, selected by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) earlier this April, is not the most expedient design and should be improved. Lin said that both he and Ko have reached an agreement in which the two of them hope to select a shorter route that will pass through the Feitsui Reservoir (�B�A���w), a route that incumbent Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (�q�s�y) had previously opposed due to environmental concerns. However, Ko reiterated Lin’s statement, saying that expediency should be the key to the construction of the railway. Ko also said that any environmental impact assessment issues can be handled by professionals and possibly a taskforce. The mayor-elect went on to say that Taipei and Yilan have a lot of opportunities to work together. For example, the county has had successes in cultivating organic farming as of late, which could have a huge market in Taipei. Yilan’s experimental education programs are also policies that could be adopted and used in Taipei, Ko said. Several environmental groups responded to statements made by Ko and Lin yesterday, generally criticizing the mayor-elect and the magistrate. Citizens of the Earth Taiwan’s Taipei Office (�a�y���������|) Director Tsai Chung-yueh (������) said that Ko is a disappointment. Tsai stated he had hoped that the newly elected mayor would be a positive force capable of acting decisively in favor of the public in the political realm, just as he had in his medical career. However, Ko’s statements have proven that the new mayor lacks experience in communication, a judgment supported by the fact that he did not solicit the advice of any environmental groups before making a high-impact statement, Tsai continued. Tsai went on to explain that the dam is a crucial source of water, and water issues in Taipei might be exacerbated should the development plan be granted. Taiwan Water Conservation Alliance (�x�W���귽�O�|�p��) spokesperson Chen Jiau-hua (���Ե�) backed Tsai’s statements, adding that the area of the dam has been classified as a Level 1 Environmentally Sensitive Area, meaning that unnecessary development should not be allowed. Chen also implored Ko to be more aware of his future statements. Green Formosa Front Association (�����}�u���|) executive director Lin Chang-mao (�L���Z) added that there are various options when it comes to constructing the proposed project, and the government would only jeopardize the well-being of the nation in order to shave 10 minutes off the commute by constructing the railway at the dam. Such decisions, said Lin, are incredibly irresponsible.

Route Selection Already Finalized: TRA In related news, the Taiwan Railways Administration’s (�O�W�K���޲z��) Deputy Director General Tang Chi-hung (���~��) responded to Ko and Lin’s statements yesterday. Tang said that Taipei City Government had strongly opposed the route involving the Feitsui Dam in April, and the route is finalized with geographic inspections waiting to be conducted. The environmental impact assessment reports will also be released early next year Tang said.