Move over TGV and Japan Rail Bullet train, the KTX is here. The KTX, or Korea Train eXpress is South Korea’s high-speed rail system, operated by Korail. Construction began on the high-speed line from Seoul to Busan in 1992 and the KTX officially became operational on April 1, 2004.
The top speed for trains in regular service is currently 190 mph [305 km/h] although the infrastructure is designed for 217 mph [350 km/h]. The next generation KTX train, HEMU-430X, achieved 421.4km/h in 2013, making South Korea the world’s fourth country after France, Japan and China to develop a high-speed train running on conventional rail above 420km/h. The KTX technology is almost identical to that found on the high-speed lines of France’s TGV system [except instead of fromage and Jerry Lewis films there is kimchi and Stephen Segal films].
Construction of a second high-speed line to Mokpo began in December 2009, and is to open in 2015. A new terminal in Seoul’s Gangnam District [as in “Gangnam Style”] is under construction at Suseo Station which will open in 2014. KTX will operate to Incheon International Airport from Seoul Station by that time as well. A new line to Gangneung is under construction to serve the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. In 2010, the South Korean government announced a strategic plan to reduce travel times from Seoul to 95% of the country to under two hours by 2020.
The KTX is waiting for the day when North and South Korea reunify, and dreams of a high speed train from Seoul in the south, through Pyongyang in the north and all the way to Paris. There is even a mock-up of this future train on display in the Demilitarized Zone [DMZ].
I was quite impressed with these trains. They are state of the art and very fast. They include power ports at every seat. Every two train cars has its own wifi logon, and it is free. Better yet, it works.
Welcome to the twenty-first century. Amtrak: please take note.
Video: the KTX train creates art in motion from Seoul to Busan.