Residents' objections could delay progress of Kaohsiung light rail by three years

Monday, October 19, 2020

Work on a circular light rail line in Kaohsiung in Taiwan is likely to be pushed back again, this time for three years, because of controversy over its construction, a city official said yesterday.

The Kaohsiung City Mass Rapid Transit Bureau is evaluating a proposal to postpone the completion date from June 2021 to 2024 and will submit the plan to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, the bureau's Deputy Director Jia-chang told CNA.

Construction of the second phase of the Kaohsiung circular light rail line began in 2016, after the completion in 2015 of an 8.7-kilometer section that runs along the port and into an area southeast of the city center.

The 13.4-km section in the second phase was scheduled to be completed at the end of 2019, to serve the northern and eastern areas of the city, but parts of the project were suspended in 2018 as local residents protested against its construction.

In a series of discussions and hearings hosted by the city government, residents expressed concern about issues such as the route of the light rail along narrow streets, which they said would cause traffic congestion, and the noise created by the trams in residential areas.

Work on the northern part of the second-phase line remains suspended, and Mayor Chen Chi-mai told the city council on October 8 that the local government was doing an assessment to address residents' concerns.

On the sections that are still being built, the bureau said, work has been speeded up, with nine additional stops expected to be completed by next year. If those sections pass inspection, the total number of stops on the line will increase from 14 to 23, extending the current section northward on either side, according to the bureau.

The Kaohsiung light rail line, the first of its kind in Taiwan, has become a tourist attraction, recording total ridership of 11.72 million since its opening in 2015, the bureau said, citing figures valid as of the end of August.