TAIPEI (CNA) — The first direct bus service between Greater Taipei and Hualien will be launched Jan. 6, 2020 to coincide with the opening of the newly upgraded Suhua Highway, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said Thursday.
The service, partly subsidized by the central government, will be operated by three intercity bus companies under a brand called Hui-yu, which means “migration,” the ministry said.
With the opening of the 38.8-kilometer Suhua Highway improvement project on Jan. 6 next year, the Hui-yu buses will run every 20-30 minutes on a daily direct route from three different stations in the Greater Taipei area to Hualien, with extra services provided on weekends, the MOTC said.
On average, the trip will take 3.5 hours one way and will cost NT$320 (US$10.5) to NT$352, the ministry said, adding that discounts will be offered in the first month.
It is the first time such a service will be provided, as the main road connecting Greater Taipei to the east coast was known to be treacherous, particularly in bad weather, due to the rugged terrain.
In 2010, landslides triggered by Typhoon Megi killed 26 people on the Suhua Highway, which prompted the government to upgrade the winding road along the cliffs on the scenic east coast.
The new Hui-yu buses that will ply the new route will be distinguishable by their creamy-white exterior and plush interior, which was designed with passengers’ comfort in mind, said one of the designers Huang Hsien-hsun (黃顯勳).
“We hope to create a brand for highway bus travel in Taiwan that will become well known to foreign visitors,” he said.
The operators — Taipei Bus, Capital Bus and Ubus – will acquire 85 new buses for their joint Hui-yu service, with the MOTC subsidizing roughly 20 percent of the cost, according to Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍).
Initially, the three companies will also use some of their current buses on the route, which means passengers will have to look for the Hui-yu logo on those vehicles, until the entire fleet is replaced, he said.
Bookings on the route between Nangang in Taipei and Hualien, which will be operated by Ubus, opened Thursday, offering 30 round trips daily, from 6 a.m. to midnight.
The two other companies are expected to open reservations at noon on Dec. 31, with Capital Bus operating 34 round trips daily between Banqiao in New Taipei and Hualien, from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays, and 46 trips on weekends, including a red-eye ride at 2 a.m.
Taipei Bus is scheduled to run between Nangang and Hualien, from 6 a.m. to midnight daily, providing 28 round trips on weekdays and 32 on weekends.
The Suhua Highway improvement project was carried out on three sections — from Su’ao to Dong’ao in Yilan County, from Nan’ao in Yilan to Heping in Hualien County, and from Hezhong to Daqingshui in Hualien.
The three sections bypass the most precarious parts of the old highway, running mostly through tunnels, the longest of which is 7.9 km.