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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Seoul Subway Line 9

The long expected Seoul Subway Line 9 (Gimpo Airport - Bangi-dong) has eventually been inaugurated on July the 24th, 2009.

Basically, the new line draws a perfect big smile under the pure Offenbach moustache of the Hangang :
- the fist section inaugurated Friday (25 stations out of 37) stretches from Gaehwa Station (Gimpo Car Depot in Gaehwa-dong) to ShinNonhyeon Station (on Bongeunsa-ro, near the Ritz Carlton Hotel), connects with all North / South lines, focuses on major business hubs (Gimpo Airport, Yeouido, Express Bus Terminal, Gangnam-gu), and of course improves public transportation coverage, most noticeably in Gangseo-gu.
- a second effort will connect line 9 with line 2 at the Jamsil Sports Complex (5 more stations), and
- a final (?) tail shall reach the frontier with Hanam city (not before 2015)

Line 9 starts in Ganseo-gu by completing a loop around Gimpo Airport with Line 5 : both lines connect at Gimpo Airport Station itself (where they meet the A'REX train, which leads to Incheon Airport) and backstage, there is a direct link between Banghwa car depot and Gimpo Car Depot. Line 9 creates two stations West and East of Gimpo Airport Station : respectively Gaehwa Station and Airport Market Station.

After that, the new line darts towards its next hub, Yeouido, mainly along Yangcheon-gil, a big street parallel to the river. Filling the big gap North of Line 5, it drops a lot of new stations on the way : Sinbanghwa, Magongnaru (to be connected to AREX), Yangcheon Hyanggyo, Gayang, Jeungmi, Deungchon, Yeomchang, Sinmokdong, and Seonyudo.

At Dangsan Station, Line 9 starts connecting with all the lines linking Gangbuk and Gangnam (both sides of the river) :
- Line 2 at Dangsan Station
(1 new station between Dangsan and Yeouido : National Assembly)
- Line 5 at Yeouido Station
(1 new station between Yeouido and Noryangjin : Saetgang Station - the island is now fully covered with 4 stations forming a cross between lines 5 and 9)
- Line 1 at Noryangjin Station
(2 new stations between Noryangjin and Dongjak : Nodeul and Heukseok / Chung-Ang University - NB: Noryangjin area is under renovation well beyond the market with a major newtown)
- Line 4 at Dongjak Station
(2 new stations between Dongjak and Express Bus Terminal : Gubanpo and Sinbanpo)
- Line 3 and Line 7 at Express Bus Terminal Station (more than ever a key hub)
(2 new stations after EBT: Sapyeong and Sinnonhyeon)

In its further developments, Line 9 will keep following Bongeunsa-ro between the parallel lines 2 and 7, until it connects with the former at Sports Complex Station. That's an area dense with hotels which for sure will benefit from a direct connection to Seoul airports. The four new stations between Sinnonhyeon and Sports Complex will be Samjeong, Samneung, Bongeunsa, and COEX.

Note that Samneung Station will also belong to the Bundang Line, another strategic North / South axis between Wangshimni and Suwon. The bulk of that line is already operational, between nearby Seollung Station and far away Bojeong Station (in Yongin city). The Wangshimni-Seollung section seems to be proceeding well, visibly with the help of many Cambodian workers : I noticed bilingual Korean-Cambodian signs on the construction sites at Seongsu / Seoul Forest. By the way : Wangshimni, surrounded with its new towns, will become a major transportation hub, with new connections to Seoul Station and future Gyeonggi-do express train systems.

But let's move back to our Line 9. After Jamsil Sports Complex, it should snake its way NorthEastwards, in the direction of Hanam city, filling some gaps in Songpa-gu subway network and establishing new connections. The last 7 stations shall be : Jamsil, Samjeon, Seokchon (connection with Line 8), Songpa (not far from Mongchontoseong Station - Line 8), Bangi, Olympic Park (connection with Line 5), and Oryun.

Overall, Seoul's extended metropolitan network keeps growing new tentacles at a very interesting pace. I was used to a Seoul with 4 subway lines plus the old Korail network, and after a spectacular boom during the 90s, densification seems now well advanced. Other cities grow new lines, connect to each other. Songdo stations just opened on time for the Incheon Festival.

Many areas remain poorly served, but light trains are also multiplying. Sometimes at a price : this week-end, five people were killed in Uijeongbu as a steel frame collapse during the construction of a light train bridge. Line 9 remains underground except for its first station.

NB: Line 9 is neither operated by Seoul Metropolitan Subway Co nor by Seoul Metropolitan Rail Transit Co, nor by Korail, but by a new and dedicated structure operated by Veolia Transport (website not in English version yet).

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