The preliminary design of Korea’s next-generation bullet train, named HEMU-400X. / Courtesy of MLTM
By Kim Tae-gyu
The government plans to take the wraps off its next-generation bullet train, which can run between the country’s two biggest cities of Seoul and Busan in one and a half hours, a substantial reduction from almost three hours today.
The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs (MLTM) said Sunday that it vies to disclose the futuristic train, named HEMU-400X, on March 15 in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province.
Under the initiative of the MLTM, the Korea Railroad Research Institute and Hyundai Rotem spearheaded the creation of the high-speed train with a maximum speed of 430 kilometers per hour.
``Hyundai Rotem has already finished building the train with six cars to test it at its own facilities in Changwon. We are poised to put the HEMU-400X on the regular rail tracks in the city on March 15,’’ MLTM Director Lee Kwang-hee said.
``We aim to check whether the train can reach its top speed of 430 kilometers per hour in August. To check its commercial viability, test runs will continue for quite a long time.’’
Lee, however, added that the unveiling event might be delayed in case the HEMU-400 demonstrates any serious problems over the examinations at Rotem’s in-house facilities.
The MLTM seems to be cautious about the safety issues as the current bullet trains of KTX generated a lot of woes due to a series of malfunctioning glitches and frequent breakdowns over the past few years.
In particular, the latest ``KTX-Sancheon,’’ which was built through the country’s own technologies, suffered various mishaps including derailment and stoppages although there were no casualties.
However, the MLTM seems to be optimistic about the HEMU-400X project.
``The prototype of the HEMU-400X will go through sufficient test runs of longer than 100,000 kilometers. Should the results be good, it will be able to commercially debut in 2014 or 2015 at the earliest,’’ Lee said.
Asked whether its commercial version would be based on eight-car trains, as previously expected, he was not sure saying, ``They can be eight-car trains or 10-car trains. It will depend on orders of the operator.’’
Asia’s fourth-largest economy introduced the KTX bullet train in early 2004 between Seoul and Busan. Its infrastructure is designed for 350 kilometers per hour but its top speed in regular service is around 300 kilometers per hour.
Accordingly, it took between two and a half hours and three hours between Seoul and Busan, which are different due to the number of stations where the train stops.
But the launch of the HEMU-400X is expected to almost halve the time to about one and a half hours.