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The Korea Train eXpress (KTX) is South Koreamarker's high-speed rail system, which connects the capital Seoulmarker to Busanmarker and Mokpomarker. Operated by Korail, the train's technology is largely based on the French TGV system, and has a top speed of 350 km/h, limited to 300 km/h during regular service for safety.


After 12 years of construction, service on the Gyeongbu Line (connecting Seoulmarker to Busanmarker via Daejeonmarker and Daegumarker) and the Honam Line (Yongsan to Gwangjumarker and Mokpomarker) opened on April 1, 2004. Presently using high-speed track for only part of the distance (from Seoul to Daegu), the new service cuts travel time between Seoul and Busan from the Saemaul-ho's 4 hours and 10 minutes to 2 hours and 40 minutes, and between Yongsan and Mokpo from 4 hours and 42 minutes to 2 hours and 58 minutes.

The initial KTX-I trainsets, also known as TGV-K, are based on the TGV Atlantique. In all, 46 trains were built - the initial twelve in Francemarker by Alstom, the remainder in South Korea by ROTEM. The tracks were built with technical assistance from SNCF technicians.


Test Ticket for KTX trial run
Picture of the full length of the KTX
Geographical map of the South Korean High-speed rail network
When introduced in April 2004, KTX ridership was an average of 70,900 passengers per day, well short of initial expectations of 200,000. While earning an operational profit of about 2.1 billion won per day, this amount was insufficient to service the loans, as the construction cost grew from an initial estimate of 5 trillion to an actual 18 trillion Korean won (approx. 5 billion to 18 billion in 2004 US dollars). On January 14, 2005, Prime Minister Lee Hae Chan stated that KTX was a political failure.

However, ridership and market share increased continuously. On January 9, 2006, Korail reported that average daily ridership in December 2005 had reached 104,600, an increase of almost 50%, with daily operating profit up to 2.8 billion won and financial breakeven expected by early 2007. The 100-millionth rider was carried after 1116 days of operation on April 22, 2007, generating an income of 2.78 trillion won. KTX finances moved into the black in 2007.

In 2008, the average daily ridership was 104,000. For comparison, the latest single-day ridership record is 183,000 passengers, achieved on 26 January 2009, the Korean New Year.

The KTX celebrated five years of operation on April 22 2009. In five years, KTX trains traveled 98.99 million kilometers, and carried 173,450,000 passengers.

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For comparison, the Frenchmarker TGV carried 13.77 million passengers in its fourth year of service, though the population of the urban areas served was less than the population of cities served by KTX.The KTX has also proved highly popular with tourists and visitors on business.

As noted with the TGV and Eurostarhigh speed train services abroad, the KTX achieved a similar, significant modal shift in its favour at the expense of other transport modes.

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By 2007, provincial airports suffered from deficits after a drop in the number of passengers attributed to the KTX. With lower ticket prices, by 2008, KTX has swallowed up around half of the airlines' previous demand between Seoul and Busan (falling from 5.3 million passengers in 2003 to 2.4 million). Though some low-cost carriers failed and withdrew from the route, others still planned to enter competition even at the end of 2008. Budget airlines achieved a 5.6% growth in August 2009 over the same month a year earlier while KTX ridership decreased by 1.3%, a trend change credited to the opening of Seoul Subway Line 9, which improved Gimpo Airportmarker's connection to downtown Seoul.

Accidents and technical issues

  • On 3 June 2006, the foundation of the rail running in the underground terminal of Gajwa Station subsided 50 m, causing the two rails to twist and dangle 50 m in the air."Head-on Collision">
  • According to an investigation by the Grand National Party in 2006, the KTX broke down 160 times in the span of three years, an average of once per week.
  • On 13 June 2007, 2 people on the street were slightly injured"Head-on Collision"> by ballast that was thrown up from the trackbed by a KTX train.
  • On 03 Nov 2007, 2 KTX trains collided inside Busan Station."Head-on Collision">
  • On 18 Feb 2009, about 330 concrete railway sleepers on the 96.9 kilometer-long railway line linking Daegumarker and Ulsanmarker were found to be cracked the month before, according to an investigation by a committee of the National Assembly.
  • Korea Rail Network Authority chosen Pandrol clips for KTX Rail Devices in 2nd phase section(Daegu-Busan, German Rheda2000 Track system) without field tests.


Network Expansion

Year Passengers carried
19.88 million
32.37 million
36.49 million
37.286 million
38.02 million
 April-December (line opened 1 April 2004)
2003/4 2004/5 2006 2008
Conventional rail
Total rail
Express bus
Passenger car
Total road
KTX network map
Shared track (KTX) Gyeongbu Line (KTX) Gyeongbu Line (normal) Honam Line (normal)

Construction of the second phase of the Gyeongbu Line, linking Daegumarker to Busanmarker, started in June 2002, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2010. The new section follows a different, more easterly route, with new stations planned for Gyeongjumarker and Ulsanmarker. A further improvement of the travel time to 2 hour and 10 minutes between Seoul and Busan is expected.

High-speed track for the Honam Line from Seoul via Osong to Gwangjumarker and Mokpomarker is also planned, with construction to start in 2009 for tentative completion in 2014.

KTX services running partly on ordinary track are planned for the Jeolla Line to Suncheon and Expo 2012 site Yeosumarker, branching from the main Honam Line at Iksanmarker. This line has a top speed of only 120 km/h, currently being increased to 180 km/h. Operations may start as soon as 2009. The Samnangjin-Jinjumarker line is also being doubled and electrified to allow KTX operations by 2014.

New Rolling Stock

On December 16, 2004, the Korean-made HSR-350x (Hanvit 350) achieved an experimental top speed of 352.4 kilometers per hour.

In 2006, Hyundai Rotem won an order for 10 KTX-II trainsets, later increased to 19, destined for the Seoul-Mokpo, Iksan-Yeosu and Milyang-Masan lines. Design speed is 330 km/h, the targeted service speed is 300 km/h. The 10-car trains will consist of eight passenger cars and two power cars at both ends, and seat 363 passengers in two classes. Hyundai Rotem has described the trains as the "commercial outcome" of the HSR-350x, not a TGV derivative, and says the trains are 87% Korean technology. The non-Korean contributions include power electronics from IXYS, design from MBD Design and front ends from Voith.

On November 25, 2008, the first KTX-II set was revealed to the public in a roll-out ceremony at the Hyundai Rotem factory in Changwon. The first six trainsets are scheduled to be delivered in June 2009.

See also


  1. " KTX takes the lead in Korea", David Briginshaw, International Railway Journal 1.1.2007

External links

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