MOTC gearing up for travel surge during Lunar New Year

TAIPEI (CNA) – The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said Monday it has been coordinating with the authorities responsible for freeway, air and high speed rail services in preparation for the peak travel period during the Lunar New Year holiday.

As part of the efforts to ease road traffic congestion during the Feb. 2-10 holiday, Taiwan’s national freeways will be toll-free from midnight to 5 a.m., said Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) at his first major media briefing since taking office last week.

At other times during the nine-day holiday period, a flat rate of NT$0.9 (US$0.03) per kilometer will be in place, which is 25 percent lower than the standard rate, he said.

Motorists traveling between the Hsinchu and Yanchao interchanges on National Freeway No. 3 will receive an additional 20 discount on the toll, Lin said.

However, he said, the standard toll-free first 20 km of travel on all freeways will be suspended during the holiday.

In addition, between 7 a.m. and noon Feb. 5-7, only vehicles with three or more occupants will be allowed to enter the southbound lanes on the No. 5 freeway from the onramps at Nangang, Shiding and Pinglin, Lin said.

The same rules will apply 1 p.m.-6 p.m. Feb. 7-8 on the northbound lanes between Kaohsiung and Hukou on No. 1 freeway and between the Jiuru and Daxi sections on the No. 3 freeway, he said.

Between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. Feb. 7-10, the vehicle occupancy regulation will be place on the northbound lanes on freeway No. 5 at the onramps at Suao, Luodong, Yilan and Toucheng, Lin said.

“We are hoping that the Lunar New Year traffic will be smoother than last year,” Lin said.

Regarding air travel, Taoyuan International Airport Corp. said passenger volume is expected to spike to about 150,000 on Feb. 10, the last day of the holiday at the airport, which will handle 785 flights that day.

The company said it is advising outbound travelers to get to the airport as early as possible in view of the expected long lines at the security and immigration processing points.

The peak hours for departures at the Taoyuan airport during the Lunar New Year holiday period will be 7 a.m.-8 a.m. and 1 p.m.-3 p.m. daily at Terminal 1, and 8 a.m.-noon, 2 p.m.-6p.m. and 11 p.m.-midnight daily at Terminal 2, the management company said.

For arrivals, immigration lines will be longest 11 a.m.-noon, 3 p.m.-4 p.m., 6 p.m.-7 p.m. and 9-11 p.m. daily at Terminal 1, and between noon and 11 p.m. at Terminal 2, the company said.

The company said it has been working with freeway bus operators to provide an additional 1,200 bus services to and from the airport during the holiday.

Meanwhile, the Railway Bureau said that due to high demand, it will offer 17 additional train services between Jan. 31 and Feb. 11, along with the 482 extra services it had already planned.

In total, there will be 2,155 two-way services during the period, which will increase its transportation capacity by 25 percent, the bureau said, adding that it will be standing by to offer more extra services some days of the holiday, depending on demand.

By Lee Hsin-Yin