Taiwan’s Minister for Transport Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) proposed draft amendments to the Railway Act that would allow the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) to raise rail prices following an infrastructure upgrade, the Liberty Times reports.

Speaking with the Liberty Times on April 10, Hochen raised eyebrows this week after he said that the TRA could implement different carriage classes, such as business and tourist carriages, and charge “international tourists” a premium fare.

A senior Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC) official, who wished to remain anonymous, told The News Lens that the idea to raise prices for tourists and implement different carriage classes was the minister’s own, and though he had mentioned the idea a few times at meetings, there are no concrete plans to carry out his proposal.

The official also said that a price hike would only come in after the government’s planned rail infrastructure upgrade had been completed.

The rail infrastructure upgrade is part of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) “Forward Looking Infrastructure Development Program,” which aims to develop renewable energy sources, railway transportation, digital and water infrastructures and to minimize developmental gaps between urban and rural areas. The Tsai administration has allocated NT$880 million (US$28.7 million) in funds for the project through to 2024, of which about half will be used for railway development.

“Because Taiwan Rail is state-owned, ticket prices have to be approved by the Legislative Yuan, and not by the MOTC itself,” said the official.

“If the TRA decides to introduce special ‘tourist trains' like the ones in Japan, then amendments to the railway act will be necessary to allow the TRA to raise the ticket prices to meet operational costs,” the official told TNLI.

Currently, train fares in Taiwan are calculated based on distance traveled, and the fastest train service, the Tze-chiang Limited Express service charges NT$2.27 per kilometer.

Train fares in Taiwan have remained the same for the past 20 years, and ticket sales only make up half the rail operation costs, Hochen told the Liberty Times. The minister said that ticket prices for tourism rail lines that pass through Jiji (集集) Train Station in Nantou County, central Taiwan, Pingxi Train Station in New Taipei City and other such lines could be increased for international tourists.

Taiwan has two main railway lines serving the east and west coasts, and commuters, homebound travelers and tourists all use the same trains. Fare increases for common commuters will be incremental, Hochen told the Liberty Times.

The Society of Railway and National Planning Taiwan has criticized the minister’s proposal, saying that the ministry should focus on integrating Taiwan’s various public transport systems instead of increasing ticket prices, the Taipei Times reports.

Editor: Edward White