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Posted : 2013-09-26 19:08
Updated : 2013-09-26 19:08

S-train, a 'slow' addition to the south

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A tea expert, left, pours tea while explaining to passengers about how to drink tea the traditional way in the tea-drinking carriage at the S-train; the S-train enters Nampyeong Station after departing from Gwangju-Songjeong Station in South Jeolla Province. / Korea Times photos by Yun Suh-young


By Yun Suh-young

GWANGJU — It's clearly not the most fashionable mode of transport. But the quirky-looking "S-train," which begins its commercial operation on Friday, is a welcome addition to travelers who had called for easier and more enjoyable ways to access the southern regions.


The name of the train comes from its S-shaped route and the Korea Railroad Corporation (Korail) is throwing around other promotional keywords like "south," "sea" and "slow."

The exterior of Nampyeong Station


The exterior of Nampyeong StationThis is the latest "alphabet" train launched by Korail, which unveiled the "O" and "V" trains in April for the mid-central regions. Plans for a "G" train for the western coast and a "B" train for the eastern coast are in the pipeline, as well as another train for a route built around the demilitarized zone.Yes, an important point of the S-train is that it's a plodder in comparison to conventional train services used by cross-country commuters and business travelers. It's not about reaching the destination quickly, but enjoying the ride. You will be passing by some of the most stunning views this peninsula can offer.

The following is our experience of the brand-new S-train.

The Suncheon Bay Garden Expo site


Routes

The S-train operates on a double-route that connects the country's west to the east and the east to the west. Two trains operate at the same time from different directions and meet at the Hadong Station in South Gyeongsang Province where passengers can transfer to the other train.

The west-to-east route, which takes five and a half hours, begins at the Gwangju-Songjeong Station in South Jeolla Province and stops through the Nampyeong, Boseong, Deungyang, Beolgyo and Suncheon regions before it enters South Gyeongsang Province through Hadong and then to Bukcheon, Jinju and Masan.

The four-hour east-to-west train starts from Busan Station and travels through Gupo, Jinyoung, Changwon, Masan, Jinju and Bukcheon before crossing over to South Jeolla Province through Hadong. It stops at Suncheon before ending its route at Yeosu Expo Station.

View of the Busan nightscape during the annual Busan fireworks festival


Features

As mentioned, the design of the S-train is gleefully outdated, catered more to middle-aged travelers with a memory of the 1970s and '80s than the generation who grew up with the Internet. This retro feel makes the train a unique experience.

The trains are colored in blue and pink, representing the ocean and the pink camellia flowers that are frequently seen in the southern regions. The nose of the train is painted like the head of a turtle, a tribute to 16th century naval commander Yi Sun-shin, famous for his deploying of turtle-shaped warships.

A school classroom modeled after those in the 1970s at the old village street in front of Deungyang Station


The interior of the trains are colored in a variety of vivid colors. The five carriages of each train are designed for different functions — tea-drinking, dining, family occasions and party events. The small spaces between the carriages are equipped with racks and lockers for bicycle riders.


At the tea-drinking carriage, passengers can experience drinking traditional Korean tea and hear explanations about traditional ways of tea-drinking from an expert for 20 to 30 minutes. The tea comes from the traditional tea-growing regions of Boseong and Hadong, which are among the train stops.

Coffee and other beverages are available at the cafeteria as well as lunch boxes. The family room offers four-person seats where passengers can sit face to face and also has a nursing room for parents to breast-feed young children.

View of a rocky islet seen from Hahwa Island which is 10 minutes off the Yeosu coast


Tickets and reservations

The S-train does not offer package programs. Tickets can be purchased in the same way as ordinary tickets at train station counters or automatic machines, at the Korail website or through smart phone applications.

Day passes are the convenient option for long-distance travelers or tourists as it offers a free ride on any other train lines such as the Gyeongbu (Seoul-Busan) line, Honam (Seoul-Mokpo) line, Jeolla line, or the Donghae Nambu (Busan-Pohang) line other than the S-train routes.

The one-day pass which allows passengers to hop on and off any time during the day at any station without limitations costs 48,000 won for adults and 24,000 won for children. The two-day pass is 63,800 won for adults and 31,900 won for children and three-day pass is 79,600 won for adults and 39,800 won for children (Adults: 26-54 years of age / Children: 4-12 years / Seniors: 55 and over / Youth: 13- 25 years / Seniors and youth are given 30 percent discount). There are also five-day and seven-day passes available.

Day passes can be purchased at the train stations or through the Korail website.

An old man in traditional Korean dress "hanbok," steps out of a traditional house built as a set for television series "Land," based on the novel of the same name by Park Kyung-ni in Hadong, South Gyeongsang Province


Travel tips


S-train users can take advantage of the car-sharing service and city tour buses available at several train stations.

Car sharing is a car rental service which is available for 6,000 won per hour (excluding fuel fees). The service is available at Busan, Gwangju, Suncheon, Hadong, Boseong, Jinju, Masan, Gwangju-Songjeong, Changwon-Joongang, and Deungyang stations.

City tour buses are available at couple of stations including Suncheon, Yeosu Expo, and Hadong where the bus times are scheduled in line with the S-train operating hours. More cities are expected to operate the city buses in line with the train hours.


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