'Korean Railroad Industry:
Keep the Ball Rolling'
Korea pursues the development of a next-generation high-speed train
The nation is working on the development of a next-generation high-speed train with a maximum speed of 400 km per hour by 2013, said Sim Hyeog-yun, director-general for railroad policy at the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs.
"The development of the futuristic train technology would not only meet domestic demands but also make Korea to be competitive enough to enter the foreign market,"Sim said in a written interview with NewsWorld.
"Korea's hosting of the World Congress on Railway Research (WCRR) 2008 for the first time and the second in Asia following Japan will testify its improved standing in the global railroad field,"he said. In reality, Korea became the fourth country to develop a high-speed train with a maximum speed of 350 km per hour using its own technology. The nation has succeeded in test-operation of 200,000 km and is now manufacturing 190 trains, to be put into operation on the Honam and Jeolla high-speed railway lines. In April 2007, Korea began to test-operate a Korean-type tilting train with a maximum speed of 180 km per hour on the Chungbuk and Honam Lines in order to improve the speed of the existing lines.
The following are excerpts of his interview ¡ª Ed.
Question: Will you tell our readers about the general status of the nation's railroad lines?
Answer: As of the end of last year, there were 81 lines with a combined length of 3,399.1 km operating, including such major trunk networks as the Gyeongbu High-speed Line, Gyeongbu Line, Honam Line, Jeolla Line and Jungang Line. An additional 16 urban railroad lines in six cities with a combined length of 500.3 km brings the total up to 3,899.4 km in aggregated length.
During 2007, railroad users were tallied at 3.7 billion, making railways the major means of transportation for the people -- 37 million passengers for Korea Train Express (KTX), Korea's high-speed railway system; 73 million general railways users; 2.7 billion urban railroad passengers; and 880 million Seoul metropolitan electrified railways stem users.
Q: What proportion does the railway system take up in the logistics industry?
A: As the prime transport, the railroad system played an essential role in leading the development of the national economy until the 70s and 80s. However, its role as a cargo transport has declined due to the expansion of road networks and the widespread supply of cars as well as the miniaturization and diversification of freight. The railway system's transportation portion plummeted from a 30 percent share in the 80s to 6.3 percent in 2006.
Surprisingly, however, the amount of cargo transported by the railroad system rose from 41.669 million tons in 2005 to 44.562 million tons in 2007, indicating the possibility of another expansion.
Q: Could you tell us about the current status of the high-speed railroad system, KTX?
A: The KTX now has about 102,000 KTX passengers per day as of 2008, a 42 percent jump from 2004 when the high-speed railroad system went into commercial operation.
By station, the Seoul Railroad Station now tops the daily list for KTX users with about 53,000 passengers, followed by Dongdaegu Railroad Station (32,000 users), Busan (29,000 passengers), Daejeon (20,000 users), and Gwangmyeong Railroad Station (13,000 users).
The entire Gyeongbu KTX line is to open in late 2010. The districts benefitting from the operation of the KTX and KTX users are expected to widen with the upcoming operation of KTX-II, being developed in the Honam Line, Jeolla Line and Gyeongjeon Line by Korea with its own technology.
Q: Will you describe the current status of the KTX railroad network construction and the future plans for the system?
A: When the first-phase of the 294.7-km-long Gyeongbu KTX Line stretching from Seoul to Daegu was opened in April 2004, Korea became the fifth nation in the world to have a high-speed railroad network. The Gyeongbu KTX Line Phase II, a 124 km-long section linking Daegu and Busan, is now under construction with completion slated for 2010. The construction will be 50 percent complete by the end of this year.
The master plan for the Honam high-speed railroad project calls for the construction of a 230.9 km-long line linking Osong and Mokpo at a cost of 10.46 trillion won. The design of the line will be carried out during this year at a cost of 79 billion won.
Q: Will you tell our readers about the current status of constructing light rail systems and the future plans?
A: The Busan-Gimhae light rail transit project and the Yongin-Uijeongbu light rail transit project are under way with the help of private investments. Theses private companies are negotiating with the local governments on the implementation of the Gwangmyeong and the Ui-Shinseol light rail transit projects.
The 12.7 km-long Minam-Bansong section of the Busan Subway Line No. 3, Phase II; the 24 km-long monorail section of the Daegu Subway Line No. 3; the Incheon Subway Line No. 2, a 29.2 km-long linear induction motor (LIM) and automated guideway transit (AGT); and the Ulsan Subway Line No. 1, a 13.9 km-long streetcar railway constructions are the plans for the near future
Our ministry plans to prepare measures to develop technologies and expand the amount of private investment in order to boost the construction of light rail transit systems.
Q: Will you touch on the current status of the development of railroad car technology and future plans?
A: Korea became the fourth country to develop high-speed train with a maximum speed of 350 km per hour using its own technology. The nation has succeeded in test-operation of 200,000 km and is now manufacturing 190 trains, to be put into operation on the Honam and Jeolla high-speed railway lines.
In April 2007, Korea began to test-operate a Korean-type tilting train with a maximum speed of 180 km per hour on the Chungbuk and Honam Lines in order to improve the speed of the existing lines.
The nation has also started the development of next-generation high-speed train with a maximum speed of 400 km per hour in 2007, projected to end in 2013. The development of the futuristic train technology would meet domestic demands and enable Korea to be competitive enough to make inroads into overseas market.
Q: Will you explain the nation's mid- and long-term plan to make investments in the railroad industry?
A: The mid- and long-term railroad facility investment plan, dubbed "The National Railroad Network Buildup Plan,"calls for the construction of the X-type main high-speed railroad network and its 12 extension lines -- six stretching from north to south and six running from east to west.
In order to greatly improve the speed competitiveness by making the railroad network a high-speed one, the government plans to raise the operation speed of trains to 180 to 200 km per hour. To this end, it will push ahead with the Gyeongbu High-speed Line Phase II, the Honam High-speed Line, as well as electrification and double-track railroad projects without a hitch. The government will also carry out projects to make the railroad network linear and to improve the signals.
In an effort to provide greater access to railroad stations, the government will work to overhaul railroad lines and expand the operation of direct inter-city buses and limousines plying to and from railroad stations.
It will also take steps to improve facilities and their maintenance for the purpose of boosting railroad logistics as well as extending the railroad network connecting projects from the inter-Korean railroad to TCR and TSR.
If the mid- and long-term railroad facility investment plan is implemented smoothly, the aggregate length of the nation's railroad networks will increase from 3,399.1 km as of late 2007 to 3,816.5 km in 2015 while the proportion of electrified railroad networks will rise from 53.5 percent and that of double-track railway networks will jump from 41.3 percent to 64.1 percent.
Q: What is the meaning of Korea's hosting of the World Congress on Railway Research (WCRR) 2008's Will you give us the detailed itinerary of the forum?
A: The WCRR 2008 is the most prestigious international event in the railroad sector, organized by six railroad powerhouses, including France and Germany, with the goal of facilitating exchanges of information on research and industrial technology.
Korea's hosting of the WCRR 2008 will be a testimony to its improved standing in the global railroad field.
About 580 people from about 30 countries are expected to assemble for the academic forum (May 18-May 22, 2008) at COEX in Samseong-dong, southeastern Seoul. About 280 papers by international and Korean authorities will be presented on six themes, including railroad infrastructure and operation. The WCRR 2008 will coincide with an exhibition demonstrating various fields such as railroad cars, electricity and R&D. nw