KTX integral part of local transport after 10 years in operation

SEOUL, March 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's KTX bullet train has become firmly established in the country's transportation landscape 10 years after it began services, the Korea Railroad Corp. (KORAIL) said Sunday.

The state-run rail operator said since services started in April 1, 2004, the high-speed trains have helped haul some 414 million people, with the average number of daily passengers hitting 150,000.

South Korea became the world's fifth operator of high-speed trains with the KTX.

The daily average represents a two-fold jump from 72,000 logged when services commenced a decade ago. Passenger earnings from the KTX accounted for 76 percent of the KORAIL's total such earnings last year.

"The trains have made it possible for people to travel anywhere in South Korea within half a day without using planes," KORAIL said. It said such developments have changed the way people live and changed the perception of train travel.

The corporation said accumulated earnings generated by KTX stood at 11 trillion won (US$10.3 billion) as of late 2013, up from 550 billion won tallied in the first year of operations. Last year's earnings stood at 1.6 trillion won.

In terms of operations, there are 232 train services offered every day, up by 100 compared with the beginning. The total distance traveled by KTX trains reached a staggering 240 million kilometers, a length equivalent to circling the globe 5,971 times. On average, the KTX trains travel 88,000 kilometers per day.

Of the KTX train stations, Seoul handled the most people with 75,400 users per day, with stations such as Cheonan, 92 kilometers south of Seoul, and Gwangmyeong, just south of the capital city, also processing large numbers of passengers, according to the company.

Among the many routes, the line linking Seoul to the sea port of Busan on the country's southeastern tip ferried the largest number of passengers per day. In addition, some 7,000 people use the KTX for their daily commute.

Besides becoming a mainstay of the country's transportation infrastructure, the KTX system is moving to make the next leap forward by introducing faster trains, KORAIL said.

At present, the trains have a top operating speed of around 300 kilometers per hour, but this will be increased to 430 kilometers once the HEMU model trains become fully operational. The top speed of these trains makes them the fourth-fastest in the world after those run by France, China and Japan.

The HEMU trains, which stands for High-Speed Electric Multiple Unit, started three weekly trial runs starting in July 2013 and should complete 100,000 kilometers of testing by August 2015. The purpose of the test is to see if the trains, which have very fast acceleration, can be operated safely at an average speed of 370 kilometers per hour.

With such speeds, the new trains can make the 453-kilometer trip from Seoul to Busan in about 90 minutes, 40 minutes less than what it takes for the current generation of KTX trains.

KORAIL said that the new trains will begin taking over services from existing trains in the coming years.

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