The rail line is more than fast transit — the KTX line connects the country to Incheon International Airport.
In June 2014, transportation company Korail launched a new high-speed KTX train direct connection from Incheon International Airport to other major cities in the country including Seoul, Busan, Daegu and more. For many visitor and citizens alike, it was a convenient way to get to different parts of South Korea and to Incheon airport.
However, according to Korail, the Incheon International Airport KTX (ICN KTX) line is set to be dismantled later this year. On July 30, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transportation announced that it had approved Korail’s proposal to suspend ICN KTX operations. Reportedly, the company submitted the business plan change at the end of March. Korail will end service on September 1.
According to reports, the reason for the decision in inefficiency. Using their Seoul Station to Geomam station (station closest to the airport), Korail said that the average number of daily riders is only 3,433. Considering that the number of seats available on the train is 14,970 the train is about 77 percent empty with approximately 11,537 vacant seats per day.
Reportedly, part of the inefficiency is due to competition with the AREX, or Airport Railroad Express, line. This train line comes in two variations: a commuter “all stops” version and an express line. The first stops at all regular stations between the airport and Seoul Station while the latter does not. Unlike KTX, which has an average 3,433 users per day, AREX reported a daily ridership of 220,000 as of January 2017.
However, many local governments are opposed to the change, including Gwangju City. Next year, Gwangju will host the FINA World Championships. As such, local officials have expressed concern that with the suspension of the ICN KTX.
A city official said that “We are worried that the accessibility of the participating athletes and foreign tourists will be compromised and this will negatively affect the success of the event.” Further, a Busan city official stated that it “is not an appropriate decision in terms of balanced regional development and public railway service.”
Previously, the ICN KTX line would run from the airport to Seoul Station 22 times a day (round trip). However, due to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, it was suspended to make way for a temporary line to the events area. Since then, Korail has failed to resume regular run-times due to vehicle maintenance.
A Korail official said they have considered reducing the number of trips around the country, but that it was not feasible. Instead, the company plans to add cars to existing trains.
Translated by O.C
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