First Section of MRT Circular Line Gets Approval to Begin Operations 

Taipei, Jan. 16 (CNA) The transportation ministry on Thursday gave approval for the first section of the Circular Line in Taipei's mass rapid transit system to begin operations, pending a joint decision on the exact date by the Taipei and New Taipei City governments. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said all the major improvements have been carried out following its final inspection on Jan. 5 of the new Yellow Line, as it is known. The new line can begin official operations whenever the Taipei and New Taipei city governments decide, the MOTC said. Meanwhile, starting Sunday, the public will be able to take free test rides on the new line every day between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., according to Lee Cheng-an (李政安), head of the New Taipei Department of Transit Systems.

The new 15.4-kilometer line, comprising 14 stations, will connect Dapinglin to New Taipei Industrial Park through Xindian, Zhonghe, Banqiao, and Xinzhuang without having to go through Taipei, which will reduce travel time. The line is also expected to ease congestion at existing transfer stations in the MRT network because passengers traveling between cities in the southwestern area of Greater Taipei will be able to bypass downtown Taipei, where they now have to transfer.

The Circular Line will effectively connect the Songshan-Xindian Line (Green Line), Zhonghe-Xinlu Line (Orange Line) and Bannan Line (Blue Line) on the Taipei MRT system. Passengers on the Circular Line will also be able to transfer to the Taoyuan Airport MRT at New Taipei Industrial Park Station and to the Taiwan Railways Administration and the Taiwan High-Speed Rail lines at Banqiao Station. The first section, also called the Zhong Huan Section (central circle), is the only elevated segment of the Circular Line, as the other three will be built underground.

The Zhong Huan Section was scheduled to begin operations by the end of 2019, but it missed that target because the MOTC did not carry out the final inspection until Jan. 5 this year. After the inspection, the ministry listed 21 issues that needed to be addressed, six of which had to be completed before formal operations could begin. On Wednesday, the MOTC said the six issues had been fixed by the construction team.

Meanwhile, construction has not yet started on the three other sections of the line, namely the Nan Huan (south circle) Section, the Bei Huan (north circle) Section and the Dong Huan (east circle) Section.
The second phase of the project will begin in 2021 to build the 14.93 km-Bei Huan Section comprising 12 stations and one depot, and the 5.73 km-Nan Huan Section that will have six stations, according to the Taipei City Department of Rapid Transit Systems. The Bei Huan Section is expected to make travel more convenient to Wugu, Luzhou, Sanchong districts in New Taipei and Shilin District in Taipei, while the Nan Huan Section will connect Xindian and Wenshan districts in the two cities, respectively. Construction of the Dong Huan Section, which was recently approved by the National Development Council, is likely to start in 2023, connecting the Wenhu, Songshan, Bannan and Xinyi lines on Taipei's east side.

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