Rail transport in Taiwan consists of 1691.8 km (as of 2015) of railway networks. Though no longer as dominant as it once was, rail transport is an extremely important form of transportation in Taiwan due to high population density, especially along the densely populated western corridor. In 2016, over 1.09 billion passengers traveled by rail in Taiwan, averaging 2.99 million passengers per day.
The railways of Taiwan include conventional rail, rapid transit systems, and high-speed rail, as well as specialized railways for tourists and industry. Taiwan Railways Administration is an associate member and Taiwan High Speed Rail is an active member of the International Union of Railways (UIC), even though Taiwan does not have state membership.
The island of Taiwan is the only part of the present-day Republic of China to have rail transport (i.e., none of the small offshore islands—Kinmen, Matsu Islands, Pratas Islands, Penghu or Taiping—have rail transport).
There are two operators that provide intercity services in Taiwan:
With the increasing urbanization of Taiwan, several urban rapid transit systems have been constructed with several more being planned.
|Name||Chinese Name||Year opened||Service status|
|Taipei Metro||台北捷運||1996||The Taipei Metro runs on an extensive network of VAL and elevated/underground metro systems throughout the metropolitan area of Taipei.|
|Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit||高雄捷運||2008||The KMRT operates a metro network throughout the metropolitan area of Kaohsiung. The Red Line is in operation as of 9 March 2008. The Orange Line opened on 14 September 2008. Another light rail system in downtown Kaohsiung is being built.|
|Taoyuan Metro||桃園捷運||2017||The Taoyuan Airport MRT connects Taipei Main Station, Taoyuan International Airport, THSR Taoyuan Station and Zhongli. Other lines are being planned.|
|Taichung Metro||台中捷運||2018 (under construction)||The Green Line project was approved in 2004. It is currently under construction and is scheduled for completion by 2018.|
|Tainan Mass Rapid Transit System||台南捷運||To be determined||The Ministry of Transportation and Communications declined the proposal in January 2010 for a metro in Tainan, citing budget issues and deeming it premature.|
|Hsinchu Mass Rapid Transit System||新竹捷運||To be determined||Proposal declined along with that of the Tainan MRT.|
The earliest railway in Taiwan was completed in 1893 under the auspices of Governor Liu Mingchuan during the Qing dynasty (see Taiwan Railways Administration§History). Since then, major railways in Taiwan have followed the 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge standard. The Hualien–Taitung Line was once 2 ft 6 in (762 mm), but since 1982 it has been converted to 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm), while the Alishan Forest Railway and the majority of Taiwan Sugar Railways are still 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) railways. The Taipei Metro, Taiwan High Speed Rail, and Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit all use standard gauge track.
Because of the Taiwan's extensive rail network (including many now defunct industrial narrow gauge lines which provided passenger service to rural areas), railways in Taiwan often have a romantic connotation, especially amongst the older generation who remember growing up when rail travel was the primary means of transportation between cities in simpler (and less prosperous) times. Many remember leaving their hometowns to attend school in far away cities by train or leaving via train to perform their compulsory military service. This nostalgia has been capitalized upon in recent years through the introduction of various items such as "nostalgia railroad ekiben" (懷舊鐵路便當), claimed to be authentic copies of the box lunches that were once served aboard trains.
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