TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Lines snaked around Taipei Main Station on Thursday morning as prospective passengers waited for their turn to board the long-anticipated 51-km metro linking Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to Taipei.
Thursday was the first day of the Airport MRT's public trial run, in which individuals were offered free rides. Some passengers staked out spots as early as 1 a.m., but the excitement was palpable and the mood giddy.
For the next two weeks, free boarding passes will be given out daily on a first-come, first-served basis at 7:40, 9:40, 11:40 and 13:40 at all of the line's 21 stations.
They will be given a touch pass similar to existing electronic tickets used on metro lines in Taipei, which will be used to enter and exit each gate.
Passengers will have the choice of taking the MRT express line or the regular line.
The Express line stops at Taipei Main Station, New Taipei Industrial Park, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, and Airport Terminal stations 1 and 2.
MRT officials are expected to allow 20,000 riders onto the system daily during the trial run, which lasts until March 1. The line will begin full operations with discounted fares on March 2.
After the MRT starts commercial operations, passengers will be offered a 50 percent discount on all trips during the first month. The trains will run from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.
After that, commuters will be offered a 40 percent discount on all trips if they buy a 3-month pass, while a 50 percent discount will be offered for groups of up to 300 people, said Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦).
As there was only one vending machine to dispense the numbered tag at each of the two distribution locations at the station, averaging five seconds per passenger, the large crowd became impatient.
Many people had to wait for more than an hour to get their tag, and they complained about "slowness" and "inefficiency."
Some suggested that EasyCards should be allowed on the airport MRT, like the Taipei MRT.
Trains run between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. during the trial period, and passengers have access to all 21 stations on the 51.03-km line between Taipei and Taoyuan.
At the end of the line — A21 (Huanbei Station) — many people also waited for a test ride.
Outbound travelers can now check their luggage and obtain seating assignments and boarding passes at the station three hours before their flights' scheduled departure. This service is currently available only for those on China Airlines, EVA Air, Mandarin Airlines and Uni Air flights.
Travelers are reminded to leave only after they are assured that their luggage has passed security checks. Otherwise, air carriers, out of flight safety considerations, will not transport the luggage to the airport.
The service is free, but some passengers, including children under 12 years old who are traveling alone or airline staff traveling on standby, cannot use the service.
Luggage dimensions also have some restrictions, and luggage that is too long or too heavy will not be transported. Passengers are advised to check with their carriers about luggage regulations.