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.
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.
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.
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.