- About Taiwan(2013)
Transportation networks are less developed in eastern Taiwan, which, compared with the west, has a much smaller area of flat land and is less populous and industrialized. However, with domestic tourism boosted by Taiwan’s growing prosperity, this picturesque region is a high priority in development of transportation networks. Under the Hualien-Taitung Area Development Act 花東地區發展條例 promulgated in June 2011, NT$40 billion (US$1.36 billion) will be allocated over a 10-year period for the improvement of infrastructure, tourism, ecological sites and other concerns in Hualien 花蓮 and Taitung 臺東 counties.
One east coast project underway is the re-engineering of the 101-kilometer Suhua Highway 蘇花公路 (part of Provincial Highway No. 9) between Su-ao Township and Hualien City 花蓮市. Work on three sections totaling 38.4 kilometers in length began in 2011 and is expected to be completed by 2017.
Public and Commercial Vehicles
Tens of thousands of highway buses, tour buses and public and private city buses provide long-distance or intercity transportation services. In Taipei City 臺北市, dedicated bus lanes on major roads together with its mass rapid transit systems have helped ease traffic congestion. City buses islandwide accept coins dropped in fare boxes, but passengers in many cities also have the option of paying with electronic stored-value cards such as the EasyCard 悠遊卡, which is widely used in northern Taiwan.
Taxis are a common sight in metropolitan areas. Taxi fares are set by local governments and vary slightly from locale to locale. Meanwhile, car rental is on the rise as more city dwellers prefer to rent vehicles for vacation.
Scooters are extremely popular for their fuel efficiency, minimal parking space needs and freedom of mobility particularly in urban areas. Nationwide, scooters outnumber private-use four-wheel vehicles by more than two to one. Beginning July 1, 2012, all expressways and fast lanes became opened to motorcycles with an engine displacement of 250 cc or more.
The Puyuma Express tilting train makes for quicker travel along the east coast of Taiwan. More Puyuma trains will enter service in early 2014. (Courtesy of Taiwan Railways Administration)
Taiwan has a public railway system as well as a privately run high-speed railway service. Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) 臺灣鐵路管理局 of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) provides service among 225 stations around the island. Its operating routes, 64.07 percent of which utilize double-track lines, total approximately 1,100 kilometers in length.
The TRA offers passenger services ranging from long-distance express trains that stop only at major stations to long-distance and local commuter trains that stop at all stations. In recent years, the proportion of passengers taking long-distance express trains has declined as travelers increasingly utilize the high-speed rail. Hence, the TRA is focusing on providing better service to passengers on shorter routes, including adding new stops and new cars to improve commuters’ travel experience.
Since 2007, the TRA has operated the eastern coastal Taroko Express 太魯閣列車, which employs a tilting technology that allows it to negotiate bends at high speeds and transport passengers from Taipei to Hualien in just under two hours. In February 2013, the TRA opened service on a new class of tilting trains, the Puyuma Express 普悠瑪列車, which can reach maximum operation speed of 140 kilometers per hour. Also, electrification of the Hualien-Taitung Line is slated for completion by the end of 2013.
Various projects are underway to modernize sections of existing rail lines and to build new rapid transit commuter railways that connect urban and outlying areas. In Pingtung County, the first track of an elevated, electrified double-track system became operational in June 2013. Another project to build an elevated rapid transit railway in Taichung City 臺中市 is scheduled for completion in 2014. In Kaohsiung City 高雄市, 15.37 kilometers of rail tracks and several stations will be moved underground by 2017 to ease traffic congestion.
Taiwan High-speed Rail (THSR) 台灣高速鐵路, which is run by the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp., provides a quality 300 km/hour intercity rail service along Taiwan’s western corridor that allows travel between Taipei and Kaohsiung in just 96 minutes. THSR trains make about 130 trips daily with a punctuality rate (arrival within five minutes of scheduled time) of above 99 percent.
The 345-kilometer railway system serves eight stations (Taipei, Banqiao 板橋, Taoyuan 桃園, Hsinchu 新竹, Taichung, Chiayi 嘉義, Tainan 臺南 and Zuoying 左營). Construction is underway for a station in Taipei City’s Nangang District 南港區 with expected opening date of 2015. Additional stations are being built at Miaoli County 苗栗縣 in the north and Changhua County 彰化縣 and Yunlin County 雲林縣 in central Taiwan.
The Taipei Mass Rapid Transit System 臺北大眾捷運系統, popularly known as the Taipei MRT or Metro, has significantly facilitated transportation in metropolitan Taipei since it opened in 1996. The system was rated the most reliable in the world for five consecutive years (2004-2008) by the Nova Urban Railway Benchmarking Group and the Community of Metros International Railway Benchmarking Group.
Currently, a total of 119.7 kilometers of track and 104 stations are in operation. Recent years saw the addition of the Luzhou Line 蘆州線, the eastern extension of the Nangang Line 南港線 and the Xinzhuang line 新莊線. Two more extensions and six more lines, including one connecting Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TTIA) 臺灣桃園國際機場 and Taipei Main Station 臺北車站, are currently under construction.
The Kaohsiung Rapid Transit System 高雄捷運, or Kaohsiung Metro, spans about 43 kilometers and has 38 stations on two lines. It is linked with the international airport, the THSR and TRA railways, as well as the city bus system. The Kaohsiung Light Rail Transit Circular Line 高雄環狀輕軌捷運線 is currently under construction and is expected to begin offering services in 2015.
In Taichung, construction is underway on the first line of the MRT system, the Wuri-Wenxin-Beitun Line 烏日文心北屯線.
Maritime Shipping and Ports
At the end of 2012, Taiwan’s shipping fleet consisted of 288 vessels with a combined tonnage of 3.11 million gross tons (4.67 million deadweight tons). Among the country’s international carriers, Evergreen Marine Corp. 長榮海運, Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp. 陽明海運 and Wan Hai Lines 萬海航運 provided container transport services, while China Steel Express Corp. 中鋼運通, U-Ming Marine Transport Corp. 裕民航運 and Ta-Ho Maritime Corp. 達和航運 offered bulk freight services.
Taiwan has seven international harbor facilities under the management of the MOTC. The four largest—in scale order, Port of Kaohsiung 高雄港 in the south, Port of Taichung 臺中港 on the west central coast, and Port of Keelung 基隆港 and Port of Taipei 臺北港 in the north—handle container shipping and bulk/break-bulk cargo. The remaining three—Port of Hualien 花蓮港 in east central Taiwan, Su-ao Port 蘇澳港 in the northeast and Tainan City’s Anping Port 安平港 in the south—handle bulk and break-bulk cargo.
The Port of Kaohsiung was ranked by the World Shipping Council as the 13th-busiest container port in the world in 2012. Though the Port of Taipei did not begin serving container ships until February 2009, it has grown prodigiously into the nation’s fourth-largest maritime shipping hub.
As a result of the agreement reached in November 2008 by Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) 海峽交流基金會 and mainland China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) 海峽兩岸關係協會 to open direct shipping links between the two sides, Taiwan has opened 13 ports to direct cross-strait shipping, and the mainland has reciprocated with 72 openings. This has significantly reduced the time and cost of transporting cargo to and from Taiwan’s top trade partner. Vessels sailing the strait now also transport tourists between the mainland and Taiwan (including offshore islands).
The Port of Taipei is among the sites designated for the development of free economic pilot zones, a plan approved by the Executive Yuan in 2013 to promote trade liberalization and globalization. (Courtesy of Taipei Port Branch Office)
As of December 2012, a total of 64 airlines (45 foreign, 13 mainland Chinese and six domestic) operated international and cross-strait flights to and from Taiwan. They served a combined 267 routes to 117 cities around the world. In 2012, the number of passengers served at Taiwan’s airports (including arrivals, departures and transits) grew 9.75 percent over the previous year to 45.42 million, with international flight passengers making up the lion’s share.
Increasing competition from ground transportation networks—particularly the high-speed rail—has taken a toll on the domestic air transport business, with the number of passengers on domestic flights dropping by 38.14 percent between 2006 and 2012.
In line with agreements between the SEF and the ARATS, direct cross-strait charter flights commenced in July 2008 with weekend service, which was expanded to daily service in December of that year. Carriers of both sides thereafter could fly across the strait without detouring through Hong Kong’s airspace.
In April 2009, the SEF and the ARATS signed a supplementary agreement on scheduled flights between Taiwan’s airports and those in mainland China. As a result, two new cross-strait routes were commissioned in July 2009 with 270 scheduled passenger flights per week. As of March 2013, the number of scheduled passenger flights between 49 airports in mainland China and 10 in Taiwan rose to 616 per week, while the number of scheduled cargo flights between six destinations on the mainland and two in Taiwan increased to 56 weekly.
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport has two passenger terminals with a total annual handling capacity of 32 million passengers. It is now run by Taoyuan International Airport Corp. Ltd. 桃園國際機場股份有限公司, a state-owned corporation formally established in November 2010 under the auspices of the MOTC. A rapid transit rail connecting the airport with Taipei City is scheduled for completion by 2015.
Kaohsiung International Airport 高雄國際航空站 has two passenger terminals and served 4.46 million international and domestic passengers in 2012. It is connected to the city via the Kaohsiung Metro.
As part of a plan to link downtown Taipei Songshan Airport 臺北國際航空站 with airports elsewhere in Asia that are close to major cities, direct flights to Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport 上海虹橋國際機場 were launched in June 2010. Flights to Tokyo International Airport (Haneda Airport) were inaugurated in October of that year, and flights to Seoul Gimpo Airport commenced in April 2012.
Of Taiwan’s 15 domestic airports, seven are located on Taiwan proper (Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, Taitung, Chiayi, Hengchun 恆春 and Hualien) and eight on offshore islands—three on the Penghu Islands 澎湖群島, two on the Matsu Islands 馬祖列島, and one each on Lanyu (Orchid Island) 蘭嶼, Ludao (Green Island) 綠島 and Greater Kinmen 大金門.
The MOTC’s Institute of Transportation 交通部運輸研究所 operates a Traffic and Transportation Service Center 交通服務e網通 website that displays real-time traffic conditions around Taiwan, enabling drivers to avoid traffic jams and find alternative routes. Visitors to the bilingual website can obtain information about fares, timetables and routes of long-distance coaches, TRA trains, high-speed trains, flights, and boats plying the waters between Taiwan proper and its sister islands. Also available on the website is information on city buses, intercity buses and rapid transit systems in Taiwan’s various urban areas.
Taiwan’s telecommunications market has developed at a rapid pace since liberalization measures were adopted in the mid-1990s with the aim of expediting the improvement of the telecommunications infrastructure. Since 1996, after the opening of mobile, satellite and fixed-line communication services to the private sector, revenues from telecom services have grown 147 percent to reach US$12.94 billion in 2012. Over this period, mobile phone services’ share of telecom revenues has increased from 13 to 58 percent.
Like many other developed nations, Taiwan’s mobile phone market faces oversaturation. The penetration rate passed 100 percent in early 2002 and continued to climb, reaching 127 percent in 2012. The market’s limited size has led to fierce competition among network operators as they vie to expand their market share through efficiency, value-added services and competitive pricing.
Major Service Providers
Fixed-line telecommunications services, which were once monopolized by the formerly state-run Chunghwa Telecom 中華電信, are now also available from three private operators: Taiwan Fixed Network 台灣固網, New Century InfoComm Tech 新世紀資通 and Asia Pacific Telecom 亞太電信. Local fixed-line telephone subscribers numbered 12.37 million at the end of March 2013. Although Chunghwa Telecom has maintained its hold on the domestic fixed-line market, serving 94.9 percent of total subscribers as of the end of 2012, it no longer has a dominant position in international telephone services.
In 2007, the number of mobile phones in use exceeded the number of fixed-line telephones for the first time. Taiwan has three second-generation (2G) and five third-generation (3G) mobile phone and six wireless broadband access (WBA) carriers with 3G and WBA becoming increasingly popular. WBA carriers began to provide service in July 2010 and had nearly 135,600 users by the end of March 2013. As of then, there were 23.1 million 3G mobile phone subscribers and 5.6 million 2G users. Chunghwa Telecom leads the mobile phone market, followed by Taiwan Mobile 台灣大哥大and Far EasTone Telecommunications 遠傳電信.
On July 1, 2012, terrestrial television channels in Taiwan completed a transition from analog to digital TV signal broadcasting. The digital format allows Taiwan’s original five terrestrial channels to offer additional services, giving the public access to 20 channels.
In keeping with the Digital Convergence Policy Initiative 數位匯流發展方案 approved by the Executive Yuan in 2010, the cable TV industry is being required by the National Communications Commission (NCC) 國家通訊傳播委員會 to move toward comprehensive digitization. A draft amendment to the Cable Radio and Television Act 有線廣播電視法, currently pending legislative approval, would accelerate the digitization of cable TV while increasing competition in previously monopolistic operating areas.
The public and private sectors have been quick to embrace new Internet technologies, establishing Taiwan as one of the best-wired nations in the Asia-Pacific region. In the Networked Readiness Index of the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2013, Taiwan ranked No. 10 out of the 144 economies surveyed.
A survey conducted by the Taiwan Network Information Center 財團法人臺灣網路資訊中心 in March 2012 showed that 6.52 million Taiwan households, or 80.99 percent, had access to the Internet. Among people aged 12 and above in Taiwan, 77.25 percent used the Internet and 74.18 percent accessed it through broadband connections. A later survey conducted in July 2012 showed that 47.23 percent of people aged 12 and above had used wireless Internet (including via mobile devices) in the preceding six months. The figure corresponded to an increase of 11.90 percentage points year-on-year, far exceeding the average 3.30 percentage point annual gain registered in recent years.
NCC data showed that broadband Internet subscriptions (mobile and fixed) stood at 24.27 million at the end of 2012. Among these, some 1.82 million were ADSL, 2.63 million FTTx, 1.08 million cable modem, 26,000 leased lines and 887,000 public wireless local area network users. Mobile broadband accounts, meanwhile, reached 17.82 million.
In December 2010, Taiwan announced the Digital Convergence Policy Initiative (2010-2015). One of its goals is to deliver 100 Mbps fixed-line broadband access to 100 percent of households by 2013. Other objectives are to increase household subscriptions to optical fiber networks and wireless broadband accounts to 7.20 million and 11 million, respectively, by 2015.
IPv6 Upgrade Promotion Program
In December 2011, the Executive Yuan approved the IPv6 Upgrade Promotion Program 網際網路通訊協定升級推動方案 to replace Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) with IPv6 as the communications protocol that directs Internet traffic. Under the program, government agencies are required to finish upgrading internal networks, databases and computer equipment to IPv6 standards by 2016. The IPv6 Upgrade Promotion Office 網際網路通訊協定升級推動辦公室 was established in January 2012 under the National Information and Communication Initiative Committee 行政院國家資訊通信發展推動小組 of the Executive Yuan.