Seoul – Busan KTX Capacity to Increase, Travel Times to Decrease

Update: A date for the opening of the two new sections has been confirmed for 20 July 2015.

Travellers and commuters can look forward to an increased number of train services and slightly shorter travel times once the two remaining sections of the Gyeongbu high speed railway are opened in July.

If you’ve ever been on one of the slower services, then you’ll probably be familiar with sometimes having to wait for the KTX to pass through first. This is because that while the high speed railway from Seoul to Busan is mostly complete, there are still parts of the railway where KTX trains have to rejoin the main trunk line and share tracks with slower passenger and cargo trains.

In July, the two final sections of high speed railway will open, finally making the Gyeongbu high speed railway a completely independent railway. The new and final tracks run through Daejeon and Daegu, the two most major cities the KTX passes through on the way to Busan.

 

Seoul Busan KTX

Image: http://siganpyo.net/

The KTX is already fast enough, isn’t it?

KTX travel times aren’t the important thing here and won’t reduce significantly. The new sections will cut the journey length by only 6.5km, making the fastest time possible between Seoul and Busan 2 hours and 10 minutes without stopping. Previously when Korail was running its non-stop KTX service from Seoul to Busan it took 2 hours and 18 minutes.

Looking at Korail’s timetables it seems that the non-stop services are no longer running, meaning that cutting down this time won’t have a big effect when time is taken up stopping at other stations. (If you happen to know that these services are actually still running please let me know!)

 

The Real Benefits

Passengers and operators will both see an overall improvement in rail operations once the project is complete.

High-speed rail capacity will increase by more than 240% from 70 to 240 services a day.

This is just in time as KTXs serve more areas and often become crowded, with many passengers buying standing room tickets. Now that KTXs also leave from Incheon Airport, they have become a very attractive option to travel quickly to other parts of country. Not to mention that these trains no longer just service major cities but also an increasing number of smaller cities and provincial areas. Hopefully increased services will take some of this pressure off the system, especially with even more services to be introduced with the upcoming opening of KTXs to Suseo Station in Gangnam. (More about the latest on this in a future post.) The increased capacity means that KTX services would technically be able to operate every four minutes.

Passenger and cargo services which use the main Gyeongbu Line will see vast improvements.

Now that passenger and cargo trains which use the regular Gyeongbu trunk line no longer need to share the tracks with high-speed trains, these services will also see an overall increase in capacity. According to the Culture Daily, cargo trains are expected to be able move up to eight times the current capacity of 390,000 containers a year with an increase to 3 million containers a year.

Passengers on Saemaul and Mugunghwa services should hopefully also see increased services as well as a lot less delays now that there won’t be the need to wait for KTX trains to pass through what were previously shared areas.

Increased Safety

Completely separate tracks equals increased safety and that those working back in the control rooms will have an easier time controlling signals. It will also mean that KTXs aren’t passing through some inner-city stations unnecessarily at high speeds.

 

Opening Date

The new sections of track have supposedly been under trial operations since the end of April. A concrete opening date hasn’t been announced yet. It was originally scheduled for June but now news sources are saying July. We’ll update this page once a proper date has been announced.  The opening date has been confirmed as 20 July 2015.

 

Quick Facts

New track length:
Daejeon – 18.2km
Daegu – 27.1km

Budget: 2.88 trillion won

Construction: 2006 – 2015

Seoul – Busan: High-speed rail length reduced from 423.9km to 417.4km

 

Sources (Korean): Hankooki  |  TBS  | Daejeoni Ilbo

About This Author

<p>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.</p>

17 Comments

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  • Thanks again, Andy. Great information.

    It gives me all the more reason to go down to Busan. Haven’t been there in a while.

    And I’m really glad that you headed off the inevitable “it’s fast enough already” questions. As you mentioned, the other benefits are awesome, especially the safety and increased number of trains.

    James 3 years ago Reply


    • Thank you for reading! I just wish they put out an official date.

      Andy Tebay 3 years ago Reply


  • This is fantastic news. Thanks for translating and keeping us posted. It’s just a shame that so many of the new regional stations are distanced from the cities they purport to service (“Ulsan” station springs to mind in particular). I can imagine Korea looking back at some of those decisions years down the line with a tinge of regret.

    Anon 3 years ago Reply


    • Thanks for your feedback. :) Yes some of the new stations in Gyeongsangdo are definitely quite a distance away from the man centres. Though I agree there may be regrets later on, it will be interesting to see what growth it creates in the surrounding areas such as Eonyang, the town right next to the new Ulsan Station.

      Andy Tebay 3 years ago Reply


    • ” It’s just a shame that so many of the new regional stations are distanced from the cities they purport to service.”

      Good point. I’ve got a friend who lives in Gwangju in South Jeonla province. He used to take the KTX up to Seoul, but after they moved the station, it’s so far away from his place that he’s switched to taking the bus–not exactly what the people who designed the system had in mind, I’m sure.

      But for the cities where the stations are still conveniently located, I’m sure it’s a huge plus. I’ll report back if I use any of the new lines.

      James 3 years ago Reply


  • Not really related, but, I’ve seen and heard a lot of ads for Korail’s Railplus card. Except, it appears to be mostly identical to T-money. Do you know what the difference might be? Thanks.

    CartoonChess (@CartoonChess) 3 years ago Reply


  • Hi! Do you know if we can purchase KTX passes in advance? I’m trying to do so (from the US) for my trip in two weeks but the Korail site is always timing out on me. Thanks in advance!

    Joyce 2 years ago Reply


    • Hello Joyce,

      purchasing KTX tickets in advance (or any other train tickets for Korea) is possible. It’s recommended to use Internet Explorer for the ticket purchase. Maybe the reason was that a couple of days ago the ticket sale for the big Korean holiday Chuseok (a kind of thanksgiving) began. Then the servers of Korail get slow and break down sometimes. The holiday is from the 26th to 29th of September and it will be very hard to get any train tickets for these dates.

      Here’s the link to the ticket site:
      http://www.letskorail.com/ebizbf/EbizBfTicketSearch.do

      I hope that you’ll have more luck now!

      Nikola 2 years ago Reply


  • hello. would pre purchasing the KTX ticket (Korail pass) guarantees a seat? Because I read you will not be able to select a seat until you exchange the pass for a ticket at the station. I arrive at Incheon airport at 3.30pm and will be catching the next available KTX train 6.30pm to Busan (won’t make it to catch the 4.30pm train as i want my toddler to stretch his legs). I would hate to think there’s no seat left and will have to stand for another 3.5hrs :(

    Tiffany 2 years ago Reply


    • Hello Tiffany!

      Thank you for the question. I just want to clarify that the Korail Pass and a train ticket are two different things: A Korail Pass is a pre-booked service that you pick up at the station and then show it to the ticket counter to get a normal train ticket. You have to order the Korail Pass from abroad and you won’t be able to book any specific trains before you get the Korail Pass at the station. If you plan to travel a lot by train, then a Korail Pass saves you some money. It goves you a lot of flexibility, too.
      A ticket is just a normal ticket for a one-way or round-trip with a seat on a specific train. You can book train tickets for Korea online in advance.
      There are usually no standing tickets for the KTX (there are some exceptions). If a train is fully booked out, then you have to get the next one. I hope that you don’t plan to take a KTX on Friday at 6:30pm? Maybe there will be still some seats left 3 hours before departure but I’m not sure.
      You should check if a Korail Pass is really cheaper for your trip or maybe just book tickets for each trip in advance online.

      Nikola 2 years ago Reply


      • hi nicola, thankyou for a reply. i didnt think anyone would reply so i just put in brief detail.

        i prebooked online a saver pass for foreigners to travel from Incheon airport to Busan. after making the reservation i print the e ticket and the fine print says i must exchange this voucher at the station for a KR pass before 10th April but i dont arrive until 15th. i thought you can buy 1month in advance. but why i must exchange voucher for pass within 1 week is where i am confused. what shall i do now? cancel the reservation online?

        thanks for a reply

        tiffany 2 years ago Reply


        • Hello,

          that is strange. The KORAIL website says that a voucher is valid for 180 days. Are you able to see your confirmation online? https://www.letskorail.com/ebizbf/EbizBfKrPassAbout.do
          I recommend you to ask KORAIL directly, their international hotline is 82-1599-7777 (open 08:00~22:00 daily Korea Standard Time).

          Nikola 2 years ago Reply


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