Capdiamont\’s Weblog Korea’s bullet train: still growing 4 years after debut
Thursday 10 Apr 2008, 09:56
Filed under: Railroad | Tags:

Home, at least for about one year. The place I would love to visit again. I considered getting a civilian job there. About $1,300 per person, one way plane ticket there, per person. Sigh.

I didn’t know they only started the bullet train not too long before I got there.

Becoming the fifth country in the world to have a high-speed bullet train service, Korea’s bullet train KTX began operating four years ago on Apr. 1, 2004 with the slogan “anywhere in half a day.”

Over the past four years, the KTX has run over 23 million kilometers — an equivalent of over 600 times around the earth. It’s carried more than 135 million travelers with a daily average ridership of 100,000 people.

The service has improved gradually, and since its first run customers have experienced an eight percent increase in punctuality, with 95 out of 100 trains arriving on time.

One of the most immediate and visible changes prompted by the new bullet train service has been the shortened travel time, which has enabled people to travel anywhere in the country in half a day, living out the motto.

For one, with a speed of 330 kilometers (205 miles) per hour it has cut the travel time between Seoul and Busan by more than one and a half hours to about 2 hours and 40 minutes from 4 hours and 10 minutes.

The changes have gradually and significantly changed people’s ways of living and thinking.

Currently, there are more than 10 million people living in Seoul, with nearly half of the entire population concentrated in the Seoul and Incheon metropolitan areas and surrounding Gyeonggi-do (province).

However, people may no longer feel the necessity to live in the Seoul metropolitan area to be close to their workplace, as the high-speed railroad service enables them to reach just about any part of Korea within three hours.

People may be able to commute from as far as Daegu or even Busan, especially when the second phase of construction is completed in 2010, cutting the travel time between Seoul and Busan to only 1 hour and 56 minutes.

Also, more free time due to reduced travel times has helped develop a new culture of leisure. People now can do things that they couldn’t do before due to time constraints.

In Muan, Jeollanam-do (province), about four hours by car from Seoul, a number of people from Seoul are dropping by for a round of golf after hopping on the KTX.

And people living in less developed parts of the country now visit famous hospitals in big cities and go on shopping trips to Seoul by taking the bullet train up.

Business trip patterns are also changing. Corporations such as Hyundai, LG and SK used to give their employees two days to travel on business but most of these trips have now been cut down to one.

Although a KTX ticket from Seoul to Busan may cost 45,000 won (about $48), about a third more than that of a regular train, it is more economical because additional costs of lodging and dining can be saved, as well as lost work time.

All in all, the high-speed railroad service will continue to improve the quality of life while helping to improve the nation’s economy by cutting travel costs and times.

Now that four years have passed since the opening of the high-speed train era, the railroad network authority will focus most of its efforts to successfully complete the second phase construction of the Seoul-Busan high-speed railway to once again revolutionize the nation’s travel environment in 2010.

Thanks to reduced travel times, more daily runs will also be possible on any of the railroad routes.

The expanded operations of the daily train service will also help reduce the country’s logistics costs by inducing more passengers and cargo onto the rails, while relieving the nation’s roads from heavy traffic congestion.

By Han Aran Staff Writer

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