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Seoul's airport rail link takes off

01 May 2007

The first phase of South Korea's privately-financed A'REX has opened for revenue service, carrying both airport express and commuter trains

MARCH 23 saw the inauguration of the 40·3 km first phase of the airport rail link between Incheon International Airport and Seoul.

Known as A'REX, the 61 km standard-gauge line is one of South Korea's largest ever private investment projects. Total cost is put at 3·9bn won, of which 3·1bn has been raised by a private-sector consortium led by Hyundai Engineering & Construction. Construction began in 2001 (RG 5.04 p297).

Phase 1 links Incheon International Airport with the domestic airport at Gimpo west of the capital. This section includes six of the planned10 stations (Table I). Dedicated platforms have been provided for the Express services at both termini. In the underground station at Gimpo there is an island platform for the Commuter service on level B3 and another for Express trains on level B4 below. Only one face of each platform is in use, but the other has been equipped ready for Phase 2. A second island platform for the Commuter service has been built at Incheon but this has not yet been fitted out.

Two EMU designs

Although designed for eight-car trains, the line is currently worked by six-car EMUs, which are expected to suffice until around 2015. The 24 sets have been built by Rotem, with aluminium bodies and VVVF inverter drives. They draw power from a 25 kV overhead line, or from a rigid contact bar in the tunnels. Maximum speed is 110 km/h. The line is equipped with Sacem-based signalling and ATP from Alstom's Urbalis 200 range. The stabling and maintenance depot is located between Gimpo and Gyeyang.

The Series 1000 Express units have 272 all-reserved seats in a 2+2 airline-style face-to-back configuration some seats have laptop power sockets. These units have pairs of plug doors at the end of each car and luggage space in the saloons, but there are no on-train toilets.

Half of one driving car is devoted to a sealed baggage area, which will serve the planned airline check-in facility at Seoul Station. Video screens in each car show a mix of news, comedy clips and weather foreacasts. Automated announcements and information displays are provided in Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese.

The Series 2000 Commuter trains have a similar front end design, but these units have four sets of sliding doors per car and longitudinal seating, giving a capacity of 282 seated and 630 standing passengers. Wide inter-car gangways permit easy movement along the train.

Commuter services operate from 05.23 to 00.22 each day, but the Express service finishes at 22.28. At present the Express trains run once per hour each way, with a 28 min non-stop journey time. Commuter trains run every 12 min, calling at all stations and taking 33 min. Single fares between Gimpo and Incheon are 7 900 won for Express and 3 100 for Commuter, compared with 4 500 won by airport bus, 45 000 by taxi or a 14 000 won toll to use the airport expressway.

The ticket machines take credit cards, notes and coins. Instructions are provided in the same four languages. Seat reservations are automatically generated with the Express tickets, which can be bought for dates and train times in the future. The smart tickets are passed over a reader on the entry gates, but inserted into a slot on the exit gate which retains them for re-use. Regular commuters can use the Seoul subway T-Money smart cards or Gyeonggi province's U-Pass cards, but transfer fares are not available.

Into the city

Today it takes around 35 min to reach central Seoul from Gimpo using Line 5, but this is expected to fall to just 12 min when the final 20·7 km to Seoul Station opens in January 2010. From Gimpo the line will rise above ground level to cross the Han river on a new bridge. It will then turn east and return to tunnel at Susaek, where a new station will serve Digital Media City. Parallelling the existing Yongsan Line east from Suasek, A'REX will serve Hongik University before continuing in cut and cover tunnel to Gongdeok. The final section will turn north in bored tunnel to emerge on the west side of Seoul Station, where a dedicated air-rail terminal is planned.

A'REX services are due to be enhanced in Phase 2, with Express trains running every 30 min and covering the 61 km journey in 40 min. The Commuter service will run every 6 min, taking 50 min with eight intermediate stops.

  • CAPTION: Series 2000 EMUs to work the Commuter services have been supplied by Rotem
  • CAPTION: Inauguration ceremonies for A'REX were held at Incheon International Airport on March 23