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Bullet Trains to Connect Busan, Mokpo to Incheon Airport

Bullet Trains to Connect Busan, Mokpo to Incheon Airport

Posted October. 01, 2009 07:33,   


High-speed trains originating from Busan and Mokpo will be connected directly to Incheon International Airport as early as 2012 without the need for transfer.

The Korea Railroad Corporation, which took over the Incheon Airport Railroad, announced yesterday a final plan to extend the operation of KTX bullet trains to the airport. The idea is to increase profitability of the new railroad and improve convenience for international travelers.

The extension involves connecting the KTX to the Seoul Station-Gimpo International Airport section covering 20.7 kilometers of the Incheon Airport Railroad. Construction of the section is set for completion late next year.

A Korea Railroad source said, “A report on a feasibility study commissioned to the Korea Transport Institute is almost complete,” adding, “Since we operate both the KTX and the Incheon Airport Railroad, no serious problems are expected.

The report said a KTX train takes about 20 minutes to travel between the Seoul-Incheon airport route of 61 kilometers. A KTX train has a top speed of 300 kilometers per hour, but the Phase 1 and 2 sections of the Airport Railroad are designed for a top speed of 170 kilometers per hour and an average speed of 160 kilometers.

The Incheon Airport Railroad has only one track each for inbound and outbound travel, so “bypass” facilities are required in the middle to allow KTX trains to pass seamlessly. Accordingly, such facilities will be built at Unseo, Gyeyang and Digital Media City stations to enable low-speed trains to stand by while KTX trains pass.

Even if the Phase 2 section of the Incheon Airport Railroad is completed at the end of next year, another two years will be needed before KTX trains run on the airport railway. When the project is completed, the Incheon Airport Railroad will have high-speed and regular trains running at once.

A similar train service is offered in Japan between Narita International Airport and Tokyo Station.

KTX trains will stop at one station between Seoul and Incheon Airport stations. Gyeyang Station linking Incheon’s No. 1 subway line and Cheongla Station to be built at Cheongla district of the Incheon Free Economic Zone are among candidate stops.

Seoul Station will have a separate urban airport terminal where passengers can get customs clearance and boarding processes. A duty-free shop is also likely at the station. Thus, the capital will add an airport terminal at Seoul Station in addition to City Air Terminal in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul.

The Incheon Airport Railroad is Korea’s first privately financed social overhead capital project. Work began two years ago but the project is under criticism as a money loser, receiving 100 billion (85 million U.S. dollars) to 160 billion won (136 million dollars) a year in state funds due to a failure in estimating demand.

Passenger traffic is just seven percent of the original projection. The Korea Railroad Corporation bought the majority stake of 88.8 percent for 1.2 trillion won (one billion dollars) in the Incheon Airport Railroad from private companies.

The state-run company has also launched major initiatives to improve operations, including the extension of KTX service.

min07@donga.com sys1201@donga.com