By Andres Sanchez Braun
Wonju, South Korea, Nov 5 (EFE).- South Korea has begun to renovate and expand its high-speed train network, an important step in the fight to reduce emissions in a country that barely uses renewables and where car use for tourism has grown with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The plan focuses on two new models, the EMU 320 and the KTX Eum, where the interior has been redesigned so that they can carry more passengers per convoy – even though the total number of wagons has been reduced – compared to high-speed cars currently circulating.
The second of them, the KTX Eum, has just started operating along two lines that connect Seoul, where more than half of 51 million South Koreans live, with the eastern slope of the country. This will be used when the Seohae line (north-west coast) or the extensions of the Gyeongjeong (south) and Jungang (south-east) are inaugurated in the future.
But above all, these models are called to progressively replace the KTX Sancheon and the KTX-I, the most used high-speed train in the country, since they work with multiple electric units instead of locomotives, a configuration in which each wagon uses electricity to propel itself.
The EMU system, used for high speed in countries such as China, Japan, Italy or Germany, promises to cut the carbon footprint of rail travel between the large South Korean population centers and the periphery by practically half.
The city of Wonju (80 kilometers southeast of Seoul) is now a laboratory for this end, and since the beginning of 2021 it is possible to travel between this town, which aspires to become nature and mountain tourism hub, and the capital aboard the KTX Eum in just 45 minutes.
“Compared to the KTX Sancheon (the model that precedes the EUM), we expect carbon dioxide emissions per passenger to be reduced from 16 grams to 8-10 grams per kilometer traveled,” said Cha Chea-hwan, director of Korail, operator of the national railway network, in a meeting with journalists in Wonju.
The city houses charms such as the San Museum, an architectural jewel of the Japanese Tadao Ando in the middle of the mountain and is finalizing two circuits of the spectacular Ganhyeon valley to enjoy on foot or by funicular and become one of the region’s most important tourist attractions.
At the same time, its proximity to the capital raises the problem that many want to get there by car, a trend that increased since the Covid-19 outbreak (49.4 percent of South Koreans have mainly used the car to travel in the last year and a half, according to recent polls.)
Yun Sang-won, director of the railway policy area of ??the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, said during a meeting in Wonju that the government is “trying to shift road transport to rail transport.”
This has emphasized the care for the interior design of new trains by adding more legroom, wider corridors or wireless chargers for phones, as well as offering the service at a competitive price (the round trip between Seoul and Wonju is about $ 17. EFE