[EDITORIALS]Say hello to the new eraThe KTX, Korea’s high-speed train, begins running April 1. It is meaningful that the first stage of a mammoth national project that took 12 years of work and over 12 trillion won ($10.4 billion) in construction costs is ready to operate.
Although the high-speed trains that will run between Seoul and Busan and Seoul and Mokpo will use the existing rail lines from Daejeon to Busan and to Mokpo, the travel time to both destinations will be less than 3 hours. It shortens the travel time to almost any place in Korea to less than half a day. Just as the expressways changed the features of the nation completely, the high-speed rail will bring a variety of changes ― not only the concept of distance but also the pattern of people’s daily lives. The trains will improve the distribution of goods, an obstacle to our economy.
On the occasion of the opening of the service, the government has to check one more time the safety features of the rail system. The high-speed rail project has gone through countless twists and turns ― controversies over the choice of rolling stock, suspicions of corruption in the course of construction and disputes about allegedly illegal construction work. Once the rail operates successfully, all those worries of the past should be buried. The KTX has overcome the geographic difficulties of Korea, that require many tunnels and bridges, to build a high-speed rail system. The safe operations of KTX will provide a foundation for Korea’s participation in high-speed rail construction in China, Russia and other parts of Eurasia.
The government must also pay attention to the changes brought by the high-speed rail. The Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements predicted in a recent report that the rail system would contribute to the balanced development of the nation by shortening the distances to Cheonan, Daejeon, Daegu and other major cities, but that the population concentration in the Seoul area and major cities where the train stops will be greater. We need better urban planning in the cities where the trains will stop and plans to promote balanced development of areas that the trains do not serve.
We expect the service, which will connect the entire country in a few hours, to open a new silk road that connects Korea to Europe via the Siberia and China rail lines.