'ON APRIL 1 Korea will speed up with KTX' announced the huge banners decking Seoul station on March 30. Hundreds of invited guests from across the world joined in the celebrations when South Korea's Acting President Goh Kun formally inaugurated the world's eighth high speed railway.

Following the inauguration ceremony outside the capital's new station building, completed in January, a flag-bedecked KTX trainset pulled in. This carried around 700 people on the 300 km/h inaugural run to Taejon, where the VIPs lined up to cut a ceremonial tape. They then returned to Seoul for a celebratory lunch.

Amongst the guests taking part in the inauguration were the Chairman of the National Assembly's Construction & Transport Committee Shin Yung Kook, KorailPresident Kim Se Ho, and the Chairman & CEO of KRNA Chung Jong Hwan. Representing the French-led suppliers' consortium were France's Industry Minister Nicole Fontaine, Alstom President Patrick Kron and the President of French National Railways Louis Gallois.

Built over the past 10 years, the 223·6 km line between Seoul and Taegu is the first phase of a US$17bn link fromSeoul to Pusan, now expected to be completed in 2008-10 (RG 4.04 p227). The initial timetable provides for 92 trains each way per day. Commercial services began on April 1, with the departure of the 05.05 from Pusan to Seoul and the 05.30 from the capital to the southern port. On the Seoul - Mokpo route, the first trains were the 05.25 from Yongsan and 05.20 from Kwangju. The first trains were about 80% full, and but subsequent departures on the Seoul - Pusan route were completely sold out.

  • CAPTION: On board the inaugural train, President Goh Kun (below, right of picture) was joined by the Chairman of the Construction & Transport Committee of South Korea's National Assembly, Shin Yung Kook. Also on board were KorailPresident Kim Se Ho, Alstom President Patrick Kron and SNCF President Louis Gallois Photos: Alstom Transport
  • CAPTION: France's Industry Minister Nicole Fontaine made a colourful splash at the tape-cutting ceremony outside Taejon station celebrating the transfer of TGVtechnology to the Far East; she had been accompanied onto the flag-bedecked inaugural train fromSeoul by the Chairman & CEO of KRNA Chung Jong Hwan Photos:Mikio Miura