Concerns as Line 9 Extension Opening Approches

Line 9 Extension

The term 지옥철 or “hell train” is a play on the Korean word for subway and has been tossed around the media over the past month in relation to the opening of Seoul’s Line 9 (Metro 9) extension later this month on 28 March. I’ll get to this in a minute, but first a bit about the extension in case you’re not up to speed.

Line 9 Extension

Please note that final English names of stations may be different than the ones shown here.Original image from Kyunghyang Shinmun.



The Line 9 Extension

The extension is 4.5km long and has five new stations that stretch across Gangnam from the current terminus at Sinnonhyeon Station (신논현역). The new stations are Oenju(언주),  Seonjeongneung(선정릉), Samseungjungang (삼성중앙), Boeunsa (보은사) and Sports Complex (종합운동장). Two new transfer points are with the Bundang Line at Seonjeongneung and Line 2 at Sports Complex.

The extension provides another vital line into the busy Gangnam area where a huge number of Seoul residents travel to work everyday. Moreover, it gives residents in the south east of Seoul even easier access to Line 9’s express train to Gimpo Airport. Let’s also not forget the location of the last station Sports Complex is right next to Seoul’s most popular baseball stadium and will likely take some of the pressure off a packed Line 2 for fans in the summer.

Of course this extension opens up more access for commuters and the number of passengers using Line 9 services on an average day is expected to increase by 610,000.


More Subway Cars Coming

As anyone who has taken Line 9 will know, there are currently only four cars for each train meaning that services can get extremely crowded, especially in a city where 8-10 cars are standard for many lines. This is further exacerbated by how often trains come which is every 5-5.5 minutes during peak times and 6-7 minutes normally.

On 31 January, Line 9 timetables were changed from one express train for every two all-stop trains to one express train for every all-stop train as trial operations on the new extension began. While this means that express trains now actually come more often, all-stop trains come less often and overall services have decreased by 60 a day. To make matters worse, according to this article from The Kyunghyang Shinmun, passengers using Line 9 services have been increasing on average by 2,700 people a day.

A Line 9 bus from Gayang to Yeouido

A Line 9 bus from Gayang to Yeouido

Metro 9 says that 20 extra more subway cars will be added next year in September with 50 more cars on order to meet passenger demand, but these won’t be ready until a year and a half later in 2017. The possibility of another 70 cars is also being investigated for the opening of stage 3.

This combined with media hype over the reported chaos that will ensue once the extension opens has led Metro 9 to look for ways to help ease the pressure. One of these is a morning/evening bus service covering different areas of Line 9’s route. The company is also currently considering discounting fares by 20-30% for early morning commuters that travel between the first morning car and 6:30am.

So why wasn’t this increase in demand estimated in the first place? The Kyunghyang Shinmun article goes on to explain that originally it was estimated that 294 cars in total would be needed for the completed Line 9 including both extensions but this was reduced to 198 cars following a preliminary feasibility investigation by the Ministry of Strategy and Finance.

In any case a new connection is better than any connection, and if people find the line too busy or crowded to use then I imagine they’ll travel to work the way they travelled before. After all, other lines aren’t exactly empty either!

Do you use Line 9 regularly?  How has your commute changed since the timetable changed? Let us know below!

About This Author

Originally from New Zealand, Andy moved to Korea in 2007 and very quickly became interested in the many different public transport and urban development projects around Korea. He currently lives in Sejong city and is particularly interested in rail projects, transport hubs and technology.


You can post comments in this post.

  • Thanks, Andy, for another great post. I’d never know about these things if it weren’t for you.

    I’ve been looking forward to the opening of line 9, stage 2 for a couple years now, ever since I noticed the construction in 2012. I was bummed when it didn’t open in September 2014 as was scheduled. Around that time I was passing through Seoul Station and asked the guys at the office about it. They said maybe March 2015. So you’re right on, as usual.

    I go to the Lobby Lounge at the COEX Intercontinental a couple times a year as they have some good specials, like the daily Wonder Hour with all-you-can-eat good food, all-you-can-drink beer, and all-you-can-drink wine that is actually decent. They also have periodic afternoon brunch-type specials that are good as well. After getting my fill at those, I like to head over to Bongeun Temple to walk my meal off. The Asian Live restaurant above the Lobby Lounge has an annual Matsutake mushroom special in October, too, that is pretty good–for those who don’t live in Japan, that is…

    Anyway, it was always such a hassle to walk over there from line 2 Samseong Station, especially when the weather was inclimate (yeah, it’s possible to go underground, but you need the navigational skills of Magellan to do it). So I’ve been waiting on line 9 for a while now.

    I’m glad it’s finally set to open. I can’t wait to try it out.

    What the heck is up with the 4-car trains, though? That’s just ridiculous. It’s just one more way to discourage people from getting out of their cars. I just don’t get it. All I can say is I’m glad line 9 isn’t my main commuting line and that it’s just a “boutique” outing for me to take it. I hope they get it together for people who really count on it, though.

    Thanks again to you and Nikola for all the information on your great website. I really appreciate it.

    James 3 years ago Reply

    • Hi James. Thanks so much for your comment and kind words. :) It’s quite hard for me to find time to blog these days which is frustrating when I know there are new projects happening all the time! Let us know how you get on once the extension opens.

      Yes, I have always wondered myself about the four cars only. This article ( says that it will increase to 6 cars for express trains at the end of 2017 but I’d take that with a grain of salt for now since it is so far off.

      Andy Tebay 3 years ago Reply

  • The 4-car trains on line 9 were always absurd. The platforms have the capacity for something like 8 or 10 cars, and full length cars should have been running that line from the beginning. The sooner they are introduced, the better- it’s not as sexy as a new extension, or light rail line, or whatever, but it would make the most difference to people’s everyday commuting experience.

    With the express trains, line 9 is simply the fastest way to cross Seoul on the Han River axis- it needs the capacity to match.

    Mike 3 years ago Reply

    • Hi Mike,
      Cheers for your comment. See my reply to James above as I have always wondered the same myself! Stations were built for at least 8 cars so it would be great to see this in operation one day. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like it will be too soon.

      Andy Tebay 3 years ago Reply

  • I got a chance to ride line 9 on part of the phase 2 extension. I took it from the transfer point with the Bundang line at Seonjeongneung to its line 2 transfer at Sports complex.

    The stations are clean, new, shiny, and nice. Everything works well and I think it’s great for people who live, work, and do business in the area.

    At Bongeunsa station, exit 7 (which will service COEX) is not done yet. The people at the station office there told me it’s supposed to be done in July or August 2015. It’ll be nice when it’s finished.

    About the tiny, 4-car trains, at first I thought I was going to have to eat my words complaining about them as, even though I was on the train at 5 PM on a weekday, the cars were nearly empty. Only half the seats were taken and nobody was standing. But that was going from Seonjeongneung in the direction of the terminus at Sports Complex. A quick look at trains going the other direction confirmed what we’d all thought–trains filling up in the early stops after Sports Complex. I can’t imagine how packed they must be going toward Gimpo after, say, Express Bus terminal–especially once people start discovering the transfer from line 2 at Sports Complex. I hope whoever’s in charge steps up the pace adding more cars.

    The other small negative is that, as you mentioned in your post, half the trains now are express. If you live, work, play, or do business at the stations not serviced by express trains, it’s a real inconvenience. I agree that it is not a good change.

    All in all, though, I think the new extension is great and I’m really happy it’s finally up and running. COEX Intercontinental Wonder Hour, here I come!

    James 3 years ago Reply

  • […] 1 can transport and mentions concerns of a “지옥철 (subway hell)”, a term that was used a lot in reference to the recent Line 9 extension opening. There are also fears that safety could be compromised in the event of an accident or malfunction […]

    Incheon Line 2 to Open in 2016 – Kojects 2 years ago Reply

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