On December 5 (2015), President Ma was accompanied by the Ministry of Transportation and Communication’s (MOTC) Minister Chen Jian-Yu and the Railway Reconstruction Bureau’s (RRB) Director-General Allen Hu during an inspection of engineering work being carried out on Xinziqiang Tunnel, which is part of the Hualien-Taitung Line Electrification Project. The three officials’ on-site inspection allowed them to see inside the now completely drilled tunnel. Not only did they witness a big engineering breakthrough for Taiwanese tunnel engineering, but the three men also encouraged the construction team to keep up the good work.
Engineering work on the Xinziqiang Tunnel had been the most difficult part of the Hualien-Taitung Line Electrification Project because the tunnel goes through the Wuhe Plateau, which features quicksand-like silt and mud. This had made it difficult for workers, and as a result a variety of different construction methods had been tried to overcome the grueling geological hurdle. In 2012, the team started using the Middle-Pilot Tunnel construction method combined with hybrid-style grouting. Construction work remained incredibly challenging though, so drilling progress was very slow, averaging only around six meters a month. Driven on by the motto of “There’s no such thing as a tunnel that can’t be drilled, there’s only people who can’t drill a tunnel”, the construction team continued to work hard. After a 5-year, 4-month effort, drilling on both ends of the tunnel was finished on October 20 (2015). The engineering feat will go down in the record books of Taiwanese tunnel engineering history, and experiences garnered from this project will be passed down to the next generation of engineers.
This is President Ma’s seventh inspection of the Hualien-Taitung Line Electrification Project. Ma visited Xinziqiang Tunnel for the first time in June 2013, and at that time he expressed his concern about the quicksand-like silt and mud and how it was making carrying out construction work quite difficult. This is Ma’s second on-site visit of the tunnel’s construction site, and he came this time to get a better understanding of engineering progress as well as to boost the morale of workers. The president’s presence indicates just how much he values work being done on eastern Taiwan’s railways. Future work on the South-Link Line Railway Electrification Project and Hualien-Taitung Line Electrification Project, which will make the line a double-line, electrified track, will shorten the distance from the nation’s east coast to its west coast. Furthermore, these improvements will reach the goal of connecting Taiwan’s different areas via fast transportation in one day so that people can slow down and enjoy their lives once they get to their destinations.