TAIPEI - The last section of Taiwan’s bullet train went into service Friday, linking the capital Taipei with major central and southern cities, the high speed rail company said.
Commercial runs of the high speed transport were launched on January 5 between Panchiao and southern Kaohsing, marking the first export of Japan’s iconic bullet train technology.
However, the seven-kilometre (four-mile) Taipei-Panchiao service was delayed pending a separate evaluation.
On Friday, the first train from Taipei departed at 6:50 am (2250 GMT Thursday) for the 345-kilometre journey and arrived 100 minutes later, said the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation (THSRC).
The train has a top speed of 300 kilometers an hour.
The commercial runs were originally scheduled on October 31, 2005 but core system delays thwarted that ambition and cost the company an extra 19.3 billion dollars (595.7 million US), according to company officials.
Warnings over the dangers of combining a Japan-made core with European sub-systems were brought into sharp focus in November last year, when the second of two minor derailments in testing prompted tighter government safety rules.
Despite safety concerns, the initial public response had been enthusiastic as more than 80,000 tickets were sold in the first 10 days.
The government has high hopes about the economic benefits of the bullet train service which will cut three hours off the current four-and-a-half-hour journey between Taipei and Kaohsiung.
THSRC has initially scheduled 19 round trips a day and hopes to eventually increase to 88 trips, with the system capable of handling 100 million passengers a year.
The railway system will be managed by the THSRC for 35 years before it is turned over to state control under the terms of the build-operate-transfer project, the largest of its kind in the world.