The Korea Herald


Korea unveils W134tr rail plan to cut Seoul commutes to 30 minutes

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : Jan. 25, 2024 - 15:43

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The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport holds an on-site briefing session ina tunnel at a construction site for Great Train Express Line A, near Seoul Station, on Thursday. (Yonhap) The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport holds an on-site briefing session ina tunnel at a construction site for Great Train Express Line A, near Seoul Station, on Thursday. (Yonhap)

South Korea on Thursday unveiled a spending package worth 134 trillion won ($100.4 billion) to achieve a 30-minute commute for residents in the Greater Seoul area, mainly through a new suburban rail network called the GTX.

The plan encompasses spending 38.6 trillion won to build GTX routes aimed at shrinking daily commute times to a quarter of what they are currently. The GTX, or Great Train Express, will comprise six lines covering the Greater Seoul area, as well as potentially parts of Gangwon Province and South Chungcheong Province in the event of network extensions. Greater Seoul refers to the capital along with Incheon and Gyeonggi Province.

South Korea also announced measures to move surface-level tracks underground with an investment of 65.2 trillion won. To enhance commuting across various cities, a suburban train project worth 18.4 trillion won, codenamed "x-TX," will extend express train networks possibly in regions including Busan, Daegu, Daejeon and Gwangju. For example, commuter rails penetrating Daejeon and the administrative capital of Sejong are named the "CTX," which stands for the Chungcheong Train Express.

Of the total announced spending, 30 trillion won will come from the state budget, while 13.6 trillion won will be spent by local governments. The plan also includes 75.2 trillion won in private-sector spending.

The plan was announced at a public debate presided over by President Yoon Suk Yeol Thursday in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province, which is about 20 kilometers north of the capital city.

"The era of GTX has just begun this year," Yoon told some 100 participants at the event.

"The quality of the commute has to do with the quality of life. ... The commuting time saved can turn into a pastime rewarded to the people."

Commuters in Greater Seoul spend about two hours on average for their daily commute to Seoul, according to a 2022 estimate by the Land Ministry.

Yoon also attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the GTX Line C in Uijeongbu later Thursday. The GTX Line C network is an 87-kilometer railway meant to run between Yangju, northern Gyeonggi Province, and Suwon, southern Gyeonggi Province, beginning in 2028.

Those in Uijeongbu would be able to travel directly to the Samseong-dong neighborhood of Gangnam-gu in Seoul in less than 30 minutes, Yoon said. Currently, those using the subway network would have to travel for at least an hour to the same destination, transferring twice.

Travelers would be able to transfer to a subway at any of the 14 stations of the GTX Line C railway, according to Yoon's office.

South Korea seeks to build a network of six GTX lines, with construction underway for its initial stage. These construction projects will directly create some 500,000 jobs, according to Yoon.

A partial opening of GTX Line A in March would connect Suseo, a transportation hub in southern Seoul, with Dongtan, Gyeonggi Province. Another partial opening of GTX Line A between Paju in northern Gyeonggi Province and Seoul Station is scheduled for the end of the year, according to the government. The full-fledged opening of GTX Line A, traversing Seoul to connect Paju with Pyeongtaek, southern Gyeonggi Province, is to be completed by 2028.

Also in March, the construction project for the GTX Line B line traveling between Incheon and eastern Gyeonggi Province will break ground. Its railway construction is to be complete by 2030, according to the Land Ministry's plan.

Yoon said the government will also accelerate its push to enshrine plans to add three more lines -- GTX Lines D, E and F -- in the 10-year blueprint for the nationwide railway network set to be unveiled in 2025, so the construction process for the lines could gain steam.

Once construction is complete, over 1.8 million daily commuters are expected to use the suburban rail network in Greater Seoul, which translates into one-tenth of the population of Incheon and Gyeonggi Province combined, according to the government's estimate.