Breezy Blue, the Taiwan Railways Administration’s (TRA) tourism train, is to be launched on the South Link Line on Saturday.
The railway operator spent about 10 months restoring the blue diesel-powered train, which first provided service to students and commuters before being outsourced to Lion Travel, which organizes railway tour packages.
TRA Director-General Du Wei (杜微) told reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony in Pingtung County’s Fangliao Township (枋寮) that the agency hopes that the restored Breezy Blue would provide an authentic experience to railway fans as well as those with fond memories of riding the blue trains to work or school.
Photo: Chen Yen-ting, Taipei Times
“The restored blue train is the only train service in the country that allows passengers to open train windows and is equipped with electric fans. When the train passes through a tunnel, one can catch the light smell of diesel fuel in the air. You cannot have such an experience if you take the high-speed rail or light rails,” Du said, responding to criticisms of the service.
The Breezy Blue tourism train service is to be launched on the South Link Line because it is known as the “scenic railway,” he added.
Certain railway stations on the line are also gateways to other tourist attractions, he said.
“The railway station in Fangshan (枋山) provides access to a little known spot with a better view of the sea, while the station in Jinlun (金崙) gives access to a hot spring town,” he said.
The agency recruited experts on railway culture and aesthetics to restore the train, which is why so much time has passed before the launch, Du said.
Lion Travel managing director Andy Huang (黃信川) said that as of last week, 3,000 people had reserved seats on Breezy Blue tours.
About 80 percent of the reservations are for multiple-day tours, while the remaining reservations are for a train ticket and a guided tour, he said.
The tour guides are to wear khaki pants, which boys used to wear as part of their school uniform, he said.
Breezy Blue tours are likely to significantly boost hotel occupancy rates in Pingtung and Taitung counties, and drive growth in the tourism industry, Huang said.
“We have shown videos of the ... Breezy Blue train to Taiwanese living in the US, and they told us that they want to return and take the trains as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic shows signs of easing,” he said.
National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism instructor Su Chao-hsu (蘇昭旭) said that Breezy Blue’s launch is significant, as the nation is 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 railway service, he added.
Su recommended that the TRA transform the Breezy Blue tours into a sustainable business.
“People in their 50s and 60s might enjoy sweating a lot on the blue-colored train, because that is a memory they share, but younger passengers who are used to trains with air-conditioning might not enjoy the experience, especially when temperatures in southern Taiwan can reach 37°C or higher,” he said.
“The TRA has blue-colored carriages equipped with air-conditioning and it should use them in the summer,” Su said.
Besides the South Link Line, the agency should offer the Breezy Blue tours on other scenic routes, Su said.
“In addition to guided tours, the tourism train service should offer more refined services so that travelers think the trip is worth every penny they spend,” he added.
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