KTX-Eum • Setting New Standards For Comfort In High Speed Rail
There are multiple trains a day from Cheongnyangni Station to Wonju Station or Manjong Station. On this cold wintery day (28 February 2021), I was headed for the city of Wonju, which gave me the choice of alighting at either Wonju Station or Manjong Station. Both stations were roughly the same distance to my final destination within the city of Wonju. I chose to take KTX 703, which would stop at Wonju Station.
KTX 703, operated by the KTX-Eum train, had the final destination of Andong.
This train was scheduled to depart Cheongnyangni Station at 09:00AM and arrive at Wonju Station at 09:46AM.
Purchasing the Ticket for KTX 703
Tickets for KORAIL’s long-distance trains, such as those of the KTX, Mugunghwa, and ITX-Saemaeul train categories, can be bought at their Korean website. While their English website also allows for ticket bookings, there is limited functionality on the website and users will not be able to select their seat on the train. But one can also get a paper ticket at the ticket counters in the train station.
My ticket cost 13,100 Korean won, and it was possible to pay for it by credit card. Adult Economy Class tickets for this sector would cost 10,100 Korean won, which is a marginal difference for the two classes onboard the train.
I bought a Superior Class ticket for the train at the counter, and it came with a seat reservation for seat number 1A in the train’s only Superior Class (우등실) carriage.
Cheongnyangni Station (청량리역)
Cheongnyangni Station is a station of Seoul Metropolitan Subway Line 1, the Gyeongchun Line, the Suin-Bundang Line, and the Gyeongui-Jungang Line. It is also a Seoul terminus for long-distance KORAIL passenger trains serving the eastern part of South Korea.
In September 2016, the Gyeongchun Line extended west from Sangbong Station to Cheongnyangni Station, offering passengers from Chuncheon a transfer to Seoul Metropolitan Subway Line 1. Cheongnyangni Station is served by all ITX-Cheongchun trains to/from Chuncheon Station on the Gyeongchun Line. However, only selected Gyeongchun Line services terminate at Cheongnyangni Station, with others terminating at Sangbong or continuing further west past Cheongnyangni (using the Gyeongui-Jungang Line tracks) to terminate at Yongsan Station.
While the Seoul Metropolitan Subway Line 1 operates from underground platforms at this station, the overground section of the station handles all Gyeongchun Line, Suin-Bundang Line, and Gyeongui-Jungang Line trains. Four island platforms in the overground section of the station cater to eight tracks, of which tracks number 6, 7, and 8 handle KTX high speed trains.
At street-level, there is a bus transfer centre with numerous services including night buses. Passengers who hop off the trains at Cheongnyangni Station can take these buses to other places within Seoul and beyond, such as destinations in neighbouring Gyeonggi Province.
In the future, Cheongnyangni Station is expected to be a massive intermodal transportation hub servicing subway trains, buses, long-distance high-speed trains, and medium-distance regional trains. GTX lines B and C, which are currently under construction, will eventually converge at this station, and this will allow passengers to connect between services and access destinations such as Incheon Songdo, Maseok, Suwon, and Deokjeong.
The KTX-Eum Train (KTX-이음)
The KTX-Eum (Korean: KTX-이음, formerly known as EMU-260) or KORAIL Class 150000 is a South Korean high-speed electrical multiple unit train manufactured by Hyundai Rotem and operated by KORAIL.
After the development of the prototype HEMU-430X train, Hyundai-Rotem and KORAIL signed an agreement in June 2016 to supply high-speed electric multiple units, the first of its kind in South Korea in commercial service (the HEMU-430X is also an electric multiple unit, but it is not for service and mass production). The original order was for five six-car units, but an additional order for 14 six-car units was placed in December 2016; both orders were scheduled for delivery from 2020 to 2021.
In September 2016, KORAIL held a public contest for the design of the new models. In 2017, a mockup of the chosen design was exhibited to the public to promote the train and receive feedback. On November 4, 2019, the first set was delivered to KORAIL.
In August 2020, KORAIL held a public competition for the name of the new model, which at the time was known as the EMU-260. The model was officially renamed “KTX-Eum” (KTX-이음) in October 2020, after KORAIL filed a patent trademark with the Korean Intellectual Property Office.
On January 4, 2021, the train entered service on Jungang Line operating between the electrified section of Cheongnyangni and Andong.
The KTX-Eum will feature the same design as EMU-320 trains , however the formation will consist of six cars as opposed to eight cars. Unlike KTX trains, the KTX-Eum uses distributed traction with driving trailers at each end and six powered intermediate cars as opposed to a traction heads configuration.
Unlike the standard KTX or KTX-Sancheon trains, the seats on the KTX-Eum feature more leg room, wider armrests, USB ports, wireless charging pads, and entertainment displays similar to inflight entertainment systems found on aircraft. In addition, every seat is aligned with the window.
Despite having a lower top speed compared to the KTX and KTX-Sancheon train sets, these KTX-Eum trains achieve improved acceleration and deceleration speeds. This reduces braking distances and is especially useful for lines which have more curves. In addition, this is good for routes with many stations, such as the Jungang Line. Other high speed trains in the KORAIL fleet may not attain their maximum speed before drivers have to hit the brakes for their next station.
The Jungang Line (중앙선)
The Jungang Line is a stretch of railroad connecting Cheongnyangni in Seoul to Gyeongju in the Republic of Korea, and this line traverses the central region of the country from the northwest to the southeast.
- Double track (Cheongnyangni–Seowonju), single-tracked between Danyang and Gyeongju
- Track gauge: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in) standard gauge
- Electrification: 25 kV/60 Hz AC overhead catenary
Part of the Jungang Line is also run with commuter rail (subway) services as part of the Gyeongui-Jungang Line under the Seoul Metropolitan Subway system. National rail operator KORAIL operates a variety of express “rapid” (급행) trains for regional services on the Gyeongui-Jungang Line. These services include:
- Gyeongui Line express services via the Seoul Station branch line, operating express between Munsan and Gajwa, and then continuing as local trains to Seoul Station.
- Gyeongui Line express services via the Yongsan Line, operating express between Munsan and Yongsan, and then continuing as local trains on the Jungang Line (east of Yongsan).
- Jungang Line express services, operating express between Yongmun and Yongsan, and then continuing as local trains on the Gyeongui Line (west of Yongsan).
Gyeongui-Jungang Line (and effectively the Jungang Line) trackage is partially shared with the Gyeongchun Line, which links Seoul with Chuncheon, between Cheongnyangni station and Sangbong station. Between Cheongyangni station and Wangsimni station, trackage is also shared with selected subway trains of the Suin-Bundang Line.
The double-tracking of the 18.0 km long section from the terminus Cheongnyangni to Deokso station was first completed on December 16, 2005. From Deokso, double-tracking of the first 5.7 km to Paldang was opened on December 27, 2007, the next 15.9 km to Guksu on December 29, 2008, and another 19.7 km to Yongmun on December 23, 2009. The upgrade of the Deokso to Wonju section was rather extensive, with significant re-alignments of trackage to enable higher line speeds.
Between Seowonju and Jecheon, another major track realignment has been carried out. This entailed the complete abandonment of the previous Wonju, Bangok, and Sillim stations.
At Cheongnyangni Station, tracks 6, 7, and 8 are used for KTX operations.
Superior Class onboard the KTX-Eum
Unlike First Class, which is offered on the KTX and KTX-Sancheon trains, Superior Class is the highest class of service onboard the KTX-Eum trains. The fare difference between Economy Class and Superior Class on the KTX-Eum trains is much less than the difference between First Class and Economy Class on the other two high-speed trains, so the service level is reduced and items such as bottled water and snacks (which are given to First Class passengers onboard KTX and KTX-Sancheon trains) are not provided.
Superior Class on the KTX-Eum trains is laid out in a four-abreast configuration, unlike the three-abreast seating in First Class on KTX and KTX-Sancheon trains. In the Superior Class carriage, there are 46 forward-facing seats which feature substantial recline.
Passengers onboard the train are expected to have their bags placed in the shelves above the seat.
Announcements were made in Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese. The KTX-Eum train 703 bound for Andong departed bang on-time at 09:00AM.
As the train pulled out of the Seoul Metropolitan Area, I was pleasantly surprised to find out how comfortable the ride was going to be. As it is an electric multiple unit, there won’t be jerky acceleration-deceleration movements from a locomotive here!
Seat controls are in the armrest and passengers may plug in their wired earphones for audio content. There is also a button that makes the chair move forward to provide some degree of recline.
The train made brief unscheduled halts at Yangpyeong and Yangdong stations.
It was an uneventful ride to Wonju, and I arrived on-time at Wonju Station, 46 minutes after the train departed Cheongnyangni.
Arrival at Wonju Station (원주역)
KTX-Eum train utilise high-level platforms while Mugunghwa trains use low-level platforms. The solution at Wonju Station allow for access to both types at the four platforms. How did the architects of the station bridge the gap? Simple — extend the platform (it is actually really long) and make one portion of it at a higher level than the other! The train then stops at the section of the platform that is catered for it!
Wonju is the city with the largest population in Gangwon Province, and thus provides sufficient demand to the Seoul Metropolitan Area from two stations — Wonju and Manjong. The Wonju Station is near three universities — Halla University, the Gangneung-Wonju National University, and the Yonsei University Mirae Campus.
Upon my arrival at Wonju Station, I hopped onto a waiting taxi and headed to my final destination within the city centre.
Bonus content: Wonju’s other station — Manjong (만종역)
The other main railway station that caters to residents in the city is Manjong. The Gyeonggang Line runs through that station to Heongseong, Dunnae, Pyeongchang, Jinbu (Odaesan), and Gangneung.
There is a third train station — Seowonju (West Wonju) that is supposedly there to cater to local residents. However, with the lack of development in that area it remains to be seen if there will be meaningful demand from that the route to Seoul.