The new EMU3000 model trains made by Japanese manufacturer Hitachi will "effectively solve the difficulties passengers have in getting tickets to Hualien or Taitung," the TRA said in a press release.
The trains, which cost a total of NT$44.3 billion (US$1.55 billion), will be mainly used for operations on Taiwan's east coast, at least initially, the TRA said, but they could also serve multiple routes, including those connecting destinations in western Taiwan.
They will also offer considerably more capacity on the eastern line because EMU3000 trains consist of 12 cars, compared with eight cars for the Taroko and Puyuma express trains -- the major models used in eastern Taiwan -- the TRA said.
The TRA will take delivery of one train each in June and July, five more by the end of this year, another 15 in 2022, another 16 in 2023, and the rest in 2024, and will gradually replace trains more than 30 years old over the next three years, the TRA said.
Facing harsh criticism for its safety practices after a deadly train accident on April 2, the TRA said the new trains are aimed at boosting its competitiveness in response to suggestions by one of its unions.
The Taiwan Railway Labor Union said on April 5 that the TRA should make more flexible service arrangements to help make its trains more competitive with Taiwan's bullet trains, which run exclusively on Taiwan's west coast from the greater Taipei area to Kaohsiung.
One example, the union said, would be for the TRA to move its fastest, tilting Puyuma and Taroko trains to to the Western Trunk Line so that a nonstop Taipei-Kaohsiung trip could be made within three hours.
Currently, the fastest TRA trains used on the route cover the journey in just under four hours, while bullet train takes between 90 minutes and around two hours, depending on how many stops it makes.
Meanwhile, some of the existing push-pull Tze-chiang express trains used on the western Taiwan line -- which have 12 cars -- should be deployed on routes in eastern Taiwan, it suggested.
The Tze-chiang express trains, together with some of the new EMU3000 models -- which both travel at around 130 kilometers per hour -- could meet increasing travel demand for passengers heading to and from eastern Taiwan, the union said.