Taiwan Railways

Train travel in Taiwan is convenient, efficient and inexpensive. The Taiwan Railway Administration (known as the TRA) began in 1887, and greatly expanded during the years of Japanese occupation (1895–1945). Today’s rail system in Taiwan is extensive, and includes 13 lines, 228 stations and 1065 kilometers (662 miles) of track. The main lines form a loop around the island that connects all of the country's major cities, while smaller lines branch off and serve passengers at various stations further from the coast.
The TRA operates both intercity trains throughout Taiwan, and provides frequent commuter services to and from the major cities. 

Local trains stop at almost every station. Many of these trains are modern, comfortable and air conditioned EMU 800 and 900 trains, and passengers usually sit facing each other across the aisle. Reservations are not needed. Service is frequent, especially on the densely populated West Coast routes: a recent schedule check on the TRA website (www.railway.gov.tw) for trains leaving the northern port city of Keelung for the southern port city of Kaohsiung, stopping off at Taipei (a distance of 35 km or 21 miles) shows a local train leaving every 20 minutes or so throughout the day. The trip between Keelung and Taipei usually takes 45-60 minutes, since some local trains skip stations.

Limited Express “Tze-chiang” trains are faster. They stop at larger cities, require reservations, and now include new EMU 3000 trains that are replacing the older but comfortable and well-maintained E-1000 Korean-built models that first entered service in 1996.

The EMU 3000 trains joined the TRA fleet in December 2021, with 600 carriages expected to be operational by 2024. Made in Japan by Hitachi Ltd., these attractive award-winning trains are now being used on both East and West coast routes.

An EMU 3000 Tze-chiang train leaving Taichung Station, 2023.
Photo by Nathaniel Altman.

New Tze-chiang trains feature air conditioning, fold-down tables and comfortable reclining seats that face forward. The most frequent trains travel between Keelung and Kaohsiung, and usually leave every 50 to 60 minutes throughout the day. While the trip from Keelung to Taipei is only slightly faster than on a local train, trips to more distant cities save time. A local train from Taipei to Taichung (a distance of approximately 135 km or 84 mi) usually takes just over three hours, while a Tze-chiang Limited Express can get you there in two hours or less.

The Taroko Express travels along the same East Coast routes as the Tze-Chiang Limited Express, although its trains are newer and faster than the old E-1000 models.  It also uses narrow-gauge tilting technology trains on the curvy Yilan line in eastern Taiwan. This train is made up of modern TEMU 1000 cars that were imported from Japan in the early 2000s, and has a maximum speed of 130 kph or 81 miles per hour. 

In April 2021, a Taroko Express train derailed just north of Hualien City after colliding with a construction truck that had fallen down a slope onto the tracks. A total of 49 passengers were killed and at least 200 were injured, making this the deadliest rail accident in Taiwan’s history.

Japanese-made Puyuma Express trains are another addition to the TRA fleet. Entering service in 2013, they have a maximum speed of 150 kph (93 mph). They normally make the trip from Taipei to Taichung is just over 90 minutes, due to faster speeds and fewer stops. The TRA owns 19 Puyuma trains. Overall, they are popular with riders, although their tilting technology tends to make them “bounce around” more than the Tze-chiang Limited Express trains.
Fares on TRA trains are inexpensive, especially when compared to train fares in North America and Western Europe. A ticket on the local train between Keelung and Taipei costs just NT$41 (less than US$1.50). As of January 2024, the long distance fare for the local train between Taipei and Taichung was NT$241, while a ticket on a Limited Express and Express train cost NT$375. Discount for seniors are available.

Taiwan Railways also offers 3 and 5-day rail passes for unlimited train travel on all lines in the system. As of early 2024, a 3-day pass cost NT$1800 (NT$900 for seniors) and a 5-day pass cost NT$2500 (NT$1250 for seniors). Many passengers use their EasyCard to pay for rides on the TRA, and every TRA station has a dedicated ticket office. Tickets can also be purchased at station vending machines, online and at many convenience stores.



Taiwan Railways Administration, https://www.railway.gov.tw/tra-tip-web/tip?lang=EN_US
“Rail Transport in Taiwan,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rail_transport_in_Taiwan



© 2024 by Nathaniel Altman

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