PANORAMIC TOURS BY TRAIN:
TRA general manager Du Wei said aesthetics and railway culture experts worked for 10 months to restore the blue locomotive
By Shelley Shan / Journalist, Taitung County
Breezy Blue, the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) tourist train, is due to launch on the South Link line on Saturday.
The train operator spent about 10 months restoring the diesel-powered blue train, which first served students and commuters before being contracted out to Lion Travel, which runs organized train trips.
TRA general manager Du Wei (杜 微) told reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony in Fangliao Township (枋寮) of Pingtung County that the agency hopes the restored Breezy Blue will provide an authentic experience. railroad fans as well as those with fond memories. to take the blue trains to work or school.
Photo: Chen Yen-ting, Taipei Times
“The restored blue train is the only rail service in the country that allows passengers to open the train windows and is equipped with electric fans. When the train is going through a tunnel, you may notice a slight smell of diesel fuel in the air. You can’t have such an experience if you take high-speed train or light rail, ”Du said, responding to reviews of the service.
The Breezy Blue tourist train service is due to be launched on the South Link line as it is known as the “Scenic Railway,” he added.
Some train stations on the line are also gateways to other tourist attractions, he said.
“Fangshan Station (枋山) gives access to a little-known place with a better sea view, while Jinlun Station (金 崙) provides access to a spa town,” he said.
The agency recruited experts in railway culture and aesthetics to restore the train, which is why so much time passed before the launch, Du said.
Lion Travel CEO Andy Huang (黃信川) said last week 3,000 people booked seats on Breezy Blue tours.
About 80% of bookings are for multi-day tours, while the remaining bookings are for a train ticket and a guided tour, he said.
Tour guides are required to wear khaki pants, which boys wear as part of their school uniform, he said.
Breezy Blue tours have the potential to dramatically increase hotel occupancy rates in Pingtung and Taitung counties, and spur the growth of the tourism industry, Huang said.
“We showed videos of the (…) Breezy Blue train to Taiwanese living in the United States, and they told us they wanted to come back and take the trains as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic showed signs of mitigation, ”he said.
Su Chao-hsu (蘇昭旭), professor at Kaohsiung National Hospitality and Tourism University, said the launch of Breezy Blue is important as the country is due to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the South Link line at the end of this year.
It symbolizes that the nation is entering a new era of rail service, he added.
Su recommended that TRA transform Breezy Blue Tours into a sustainable business.
“People in their 50s and 60s may like to sweat a lot in the blue colored train, as it is a memory they share, but young passengers accustomed to air-conditioned trains might not enjoy the experience, especially when temperatures in southern Taiwan can reach 37 ° C or more, ”he said.
“The TRA has blue-colored cars with air conditioning and it should use them in the summer,” Su said.
In addition to the South Link line, the agency is expected to offer the Breezy Blue tours on other scenic routes, Su said.
“In addition to guided tours, the tourist train service should offer more refined services so that travelers think the trip is worth every penny spent,” he added.
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