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Overview: Taiwan has a modern and comprehensive transportation infrastructure. With two international airports serving the world’s major airlines, an extensive network of highways and expressways, and a railroad system that circles the island and is soon to be joined by bullet-train service north to south, the island is well served. Additionally, it has modern port facilities at strategic locations to export its large industrial production. Taiwan’s telecommunications are among the most sophisticated and well used in the world.

Roads: Taiwan had 37,342 kilometers of highways, including 608 kilometers of expressways, in 2003. Of the total, about 88 percent of roads were paved and about 12 percent were unpaved rural roads. In 2003 Taiwan had 5.2 million passenger automobiles, 25,600 buses and coaches, 885,780 trucks and goods-carrying vehicles, and 12.4 million motorcycles and motor scooters in use. In the same year, some 388,000 new passenger automobiles and 4,100 new trucks and buses were manufactured.

Railroads: Construction of Taiwan’s first railroad began in 1887 and was completed in 1891. That same year, the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) was established as a public utility. It now is part of the Ministry of Communications and Transportation. Most other routes were built during the Japanese occupation, between 1908 and 1941. By 2003 Taiwan had 1,103.7 kilometers of 1.067-meter track. Of this total, 519 kilometers were electrified, 514.8 kilometers had double tracks, and 588.9 kilometers had single tracks. The TRA operates commuter, long-distance passenger, and freight services. There are three main lines, the Western and Eastern lines, which join in the north at Chi-lung (Keelung), and the South-Link Line, which was completed in 1991 and connects the southern terminals of the Western and Eastern lines. There also are three branch lines. At the start of 2004, the TRA had 173 electric and 155 diesel locomotives, 171 diesel multiple-unit railcars, 66 diesel single-unit railcars, 563 electric multiple-unit railcars, 1,351 passenger coaches, and 2,755 freight cars. Daily, the TRA system carries nearly 500,000 passengers and about 50,000 tons of freight. During 2003 railroads carried 478.2 million passengers, accounting for nearly 11.2 billion passenger/kilometers, and 16.7 million tons of freight, accounting for 863.9 million ton/kilometers. The Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation has completed construction of double-track, standard-gauge bullet-train service between Taipei and Kao-hsiung. When fully operational and using Japanese-made Shinkansen trains, it will take 90 minutes to travel the 345-kilometer route at 350 kilometers per hour. In January 2005, the eight-station (four other stations are planned) route was undergoing running tests, and operations are expected to begin in fall 2005. Another 1,400 kilometers of 0.762-meter narrow-gauge track belong to the Taiwan Sugar Corporation and the Taiwan Forestry Bureau and are used primarily to transport their products and a limited number of passengers.

Rapid Transit: Construction of the Taipei Rapid Transit System, or Metro Taipei, began in 1987. The first line, the elevated Muzha Line, went into operation in 1996, and between 1997 and 2004 four additional lines and three branch lines became operational. The 65.3 kilometers of lines in operation have 68 stations and a combination of underground, elevated, and surface tracks. Four underground or elevated lines are under construction, with opening dates between 2007 and 2010, either as extensions or branches of existing lines. Three other lines are planned. The two-line, 42.7-kilometer-long, 37-station Kao-hsiung Mass Rapid Transit system has been under construction since 2001. The mostly underground system is scheduled for completion in late 2006. Proposals have been made for similar systems in T’ai-chung and T’ai-nan.

Ports: Taiwan has five major international ports. The largest facility, according to cargo volume, is Kao-hsiung, which is located in southwestern Taiwan and handles more than 50 percent of the total. It is one of the busiest ports in the world. Other international ports are An-p’ing, north of Kao-hsiung; Chi-lung (Keelung), on the northern tip of Taiwan; Hua-lien, on the central east coast; Su-ao, an auxiliary port to Chi-lung; and T’ai-chung, on the central west coast, about 25 kilometers west of the city of T’ai-chung. Taiwan’s merchant fleet has some 649 vessels, including 130 ships of 1,000 gross registered tons or more. This latter category includes 36 bulk carriers, 23 cargo ships, 2 chemical tankers, 3 combination bulk carriers, 37 container ships, 17 petroleum tankers, 10 refrigerated cargo ships, and 2 roll on/roll off ships. In 2003 some 457 Taiwanese-owned ships were registered in other countries.

Inland and Coastal Waterways: Taiwan has no significant inland waterways. Its coastal waterways are served by numerous small, medium, and large ports.

Civil Aviation and Airports: Taiwan has 40 airports, 37 of which have paved runways, and three heliports. Of paved-runway airports, eight have runways of more than 3,047 meters. Taiwan has two international airports. Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, located at T’ao-yüan, 40 kilometers west of Taipei, opened in 1979 and was expanded in 2000. It has two terminals serving 32 domestic and foreign airlines; its longest runway is 3,600 meters. The other is the Kao-hsiung International Airport, 10 kilometers outside of Kao-hsiung. The airport’s longest runway is 3,150 meters, and its international terminal was completed in 1997. Taiwan’s China Airlines (CAL) is the major domestic and international carrier. CAL has a fleet of 55 Airbus and Boeing aircraft and 22 more on order from the same two companies. As with many state-owned companies, CAL has been undergoing privatization. Other major carriers are EVA Airways, Far Eastern Air Transport, Mandarin Airlines, Transasia Airways, and UNI Airways, with fleets of aircraft serving a variety of regional and domestic destinations. In 2003 civil aviation transported 37.8 million passengers and 1.6 million tons of freight to, from, and within Taiwan.

Pipelines: Taiwan had 25 kilometers of condensate pipelines and 435 kilometers of gas pipelines in 2004.

Telecommunications: Taiwan had 135 AM radio stations, 49 FM stations, and some 16 million radios reported in operation in 2002. Many stations also offered Internet access to their broadcasts. In 1997 there were 29 television broadcast stations. Almost every household in Taiwan has a color television (99.6 sets per 100 households, or around 7 million sets, in 2002) and many also have cable service (74.8 cable receivers per 100 households in 2002). In 2003 there were nearly 13.4 main-line telephones, and in 2004 there were more than 23 million cellular telephone subscribers. The domestic telephone system is fully digital. International service is provided via two earth satellite stations servicing two Intelsat satellites, one over the Pacific Ocean and one over the Indian Ocean. Submarine cables connect Taiwan to Japan via Okinawa, Philippines, Guam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia, the Middle East, and Western Europe. Taiwanese are major users of the Internet, having more than 7.8 million users in 2003. The Directorate General of Telecommunications, which serves as the telecommunications regulatory authority and determines power and frequencies in Taiwan, is subordinate to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications. The Government Information Office supervises the operation of all radio and television stations, both private and government-owned.

PUBLISHER / AUTHOR: This series of profiles of foreign nations is part of the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The profiles offer brief, summarized information on a country's historical background, geography, society, economy, transportation and telecommunications, government and politics, and national security. In addition to being featured in the front matter of published Country Studies, they are now being prepared as stand-alone reference aides for all countries in the series, as well as for a number of additional countries of interest. The profiles offer reasonably current country information independent of the existence of a recently published Country Study and will be updated annually or more frequently as events warrant.

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