Currently a train ride from Yongsan in Seoul to Gwangju takes between 2 hours 30 minutes and 2 hours 51 minutes by Korea’s bullet train KTX and it involves a change of trains in Iksan or Cheonan-Ansan. In April 2015 the Honam High Speed Railway (호남고속철도) is going to open and allow faster travel on a new high speed rail segment from Osong to Gwangju.
The Honam High Speed Rail
Until now, KTX trains from Seoul to Gwangju or Mokpo run on a conventional line with a speed of 200 km/h at max. The new rail segment is 182.25 km long and the construction begun in 2009. The costs of the new line (including the new trains) are 8.7 trillion Korean Won (7.83 Billion US-Dollar). The new line stops at Gongju, Iksan, Jeongeup and Gwangju (Songjeong Station). A train ride from Yongsan Station to Gwangju is going to take 1 hour 33 minutes. This equals an reduction of over 1 hour and a reduction of travel time by 40%. Tickets for the bullet train service will cost around 47,000 Korean Won (9,000 KRW more than now). Purple-colored KTX Sancheons, the second generation of Korea’s bullet train, are going to run on that line.
The following map shows the existing conventional and new Honam high speed line in red:
Originally, the Honam rail line begun in Daejeon and went the whole way to Mokpo. The new high speed rail line will begin in Osong and go until Gwangju for now. There was a big uproar after KORAIL published the updated time schedules. The new rail line skips Daejeon and KORAIL reduced the number of services between Gwangju, Daejeon and Seoul. In case of serving Saedaejeon on the Honam line it would take additional 45 minutes and result in a total travel time of 2 hours 18 minutes from Yongsan to Gwangju.
This was only the first phase of the project. The second phase includes a new line from Hyangnam (close to Suwon and Hwaseong) to Iksan and from Gwangju to Mokpo. The section from Hyangnam to Iksan would run parallel to the existing Gyeongbu high speed rail line. From Gwangju to Mokpo it is an additional 48.74 km (13 minutes). Unfortunately, it isn’t clear if the second phase is ever going to be realized.