Wednesday, September 21, 2011

KTX coast to coast Incheon-Gangneung

It was part of the Pyeongchang 2018 bid but now that's official: the KTX Incheon airport line will be prolonged all the way to Gangneung by 2015, connecting key entry points (ICN, Seoul) to the future olympic venues and the East Sea. A major milestone for a national network in permanent development for conventional as well as high speed lines.

Historically, Korean railways followed the Seoul-Busan axis: the Gyeongbu Line and Jungang Line are basically Nortwest-Southeast parallels, the former starting from Seoul Station and the latter from Cheongnyangni (two multimodal hubs about to be more closely connected in the future).

The KTX dramatically shrunk distances, and now Daejeon competes with Daegu as the main hub between the capital and Busan because it lies at the intersection of the KTX Gyeongbu Line (Seoul-Busan 2h10)and the Honam Line (Seoul-Mokpo 1h46). Initially planned for 2014, Seoul-Gangneung is expected to take 1h39, largely within the goal set by railway authorities for all intra-korean lines (two hours maximum).

The Incheon Airport KTX line (not to be confused with the AREX - "
AREX on time for Seoul - Gimpo - Incheon" - even if it shares the infrastructure) reaches Wonju West station in Gangwon-do, with 5 stops in between:
- Susaek (Gyeongui Line, close to the DMC and Subway Line 6) in Susaek-dong, Eunpyeong-gu, Seoul
- Yongsan (other KTX lines, Jungang Line, and Subway Line 1) in Hangangno 3-ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
- Cheongnyangni (Jungang Line, Gyeongwon Line) in Jeonnong-dong, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul
- Mangu (Gyeongchun Line, Jungang Line, Subway Line 1) in Sangbong-dong, Jungnang-gu, Seoul
- Yongmun (Jungang Line) in Yangpyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do

The old Wonju Station being also on Jungang Line, this is basically an AREX-Jungang combo.

The Wonju-Gangneung extension will connect the two cities that gave their name to the Gangwon-do province when it was founded in 1395 (GANGneung + WONju = GANGWON). Wonju remained the capital for centuries but now Chuncheon rules: it claims 1.4 mn souls compared to 310,000 for Wonju and 230,000 for Gangneung.

Only two stops are scheduled between WON and GANG: Pyeongchang and Daegwallyeong, both in Pyeongchang-gun. Daegwallyeong is famous for the Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm, but two major olympic venues are located in this myeon: Alpensia and Yongpyong resorts.

When I think that driving to Yongpyong took us 6 hours back in 1992, if we were smart enough to leave Seoul before 6 AM to avoid the traffic on the old road... infrastructures have so much improved over the past two decades!

Well. Not all infrastructures proved successful. This new KTX line looks like another nail in Yangyang International Airport's coffin: that's by far the closest one to Pyeongchang as the crow flies, and it's quite ok (yours truly used it back in 2002), but it's a commercial flop and totally desert except for the occasional charter flight.

Even on steroids, a crow cannot beat a KTX.

Seoul Village 2011
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