“Taiwan High Speed Rail seeks to be a platform for progress and life improvement, striving to be a top ten Taiwanese brand.”
Now in its 11th year of service, the Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSRC) is a 12-station network connects the north of the island with the south in around 1hour 45mins. It is used by around 166,000 people a day and last year the high-speed line reached the milestone of 60 million passenger journeys since its launch.
Taking part in this week’s 5 Minutes With… is James Shi, the director of operation division at THSRC. James chats with SmartRail World’s Dave Songer about what he’ll speak about at this month’s SmartRail show, the THSRC that changed transport on the island forever and why narrow-gauge trumps high-speed for his favourite rail journey.
Dave Songer (DS): Thanks for taking part, can you tell me a little about the THSRC network?
James Shi (JS): The Taiwan High Speed Rail opened for service in January 2007, with a route length of 350km (217m), 12 stations and five depots. The system is based primarily on Japan’s Shinkansen technology and there are a total of 34 700T JR trainsets operating on the line that can reach speeds of up to 300km/hr (180mph), each with 11 standard cars, one business car and 989 seats.
(DS): What does your job there entail?
(JS): The position of director of operation division is one I’ve held since February 2017 and puts me in charge of station operation, ticketing, train operation and also control centre operation. Prior to that I was the director of the maintenance division, which meant I oversaw the maintenance objective as well as strategy development and management of rolling stock, signalling and communication, power and track systems and maintenance depots.
(DS): What made you to want to work in the rail industry?
(JS): When the Taipei MRT Engineering Bureau was set up in 1987 it was on the look-out for talent in the E&M engineering field and I joined up with the Bureau soon after receiving my MS degree in the US. In addition to that I was also selected for a training programme in France to help me gain the knowledge to operate the first metro line in Taiwan.
(DS): What do you most enjoy about working in it?
(JS): Both metro and high-speed rail were very new when I began working for them and I enjoy working with the state-of-the-art technology being used, which is particularly impressive in Taiwan. But most of all I enjoy just being able to learn about all the latest railway developments in the world.
(DS): How has it changed over your career?
(JS): Just before the high speed rail line opened in January 2007 I joined THSRC and since then high-speed rail development has become the mainstream in the railway industry. I think that speedy infotainment will be the next big development using the smartphones that have become a part of all our lives – the demand from passengers is certainly there.
(DS): What is the biggest professional challenge you’ve faced?
(JS): I would have to say that came while I was the E&M maintenance manager of the Taipei Metro line in 1996, when one of the contractors on the line left during the warranty period because of a contractual dispute. I had to keep the system in normal operation with limited spare parts and without any support from the system contractor. However, it was a valuable experience for me to turn a crisis into an opportunity.
(DS): What are the key business priorities for THSRC now and in the future? Are there projects or targets you can provide details on?
(JS): THSRC seeks to be a platform for progress and life improvement, striving to be a top ten Taiwanese brand. We intend to continue upgrading our passenger services, expand our enterprise and also build towards a membership economy.
(DS): What do you believe will be some of the biggest differences between the passenger journey today and in 10 years’ time?
(JS): I can imagine the passenger journey will become a ticketless, cashless and more entertaining travel experience, allowing passengers to access all kinds of apps during their journey using on-board displays and their smartphones to watch videos, news and play games.
(DS): You’re due to speak at this year’s SmartRail – what do you think you’ll talk about
(JS): My presentation will include some of Taiwan High Speed Rail’s smart innovations such as train operation management information system, smart driving (to help save energy), our seat map information system and ticketing, as well as higher performances and the upgrades we’ve made to our customer services. It’s quite likely I will also cover the smart operation of THSRC’s Intelligent Transportation System.
(DS): What’s your favourite rail journey – wherever that may be in the world – and why?
(JS): That would have to be the Alishan Forest Railway. It is an 86km (53m) network of 2ft 6in-wide gauge tracks that run through the mountain resort of Alishan in Chiayi County, Taiwan. The railway, originally constructed for logging, has become a tourist attraction with its unique Z-shaped switchbacks, and more than 50 tunnels and 77 wooden bridges. At 2,451 metres, the last stop, Jushan Sunrise station, is also the highest and has 1,000-year-old trees and great hiking, making it an amazing spot to watch sunrises.
(DS): Thanks James, I look forward to meeting you at SmartRail.
Last week's 5 minutes with… Natasha Maksymowski, rail cyber security advisor at the DfT.
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