South Korea will launch its first magnetic levitation (maglev) train service on a route linking Incheon International Airport to a nearby station this week, becoming the second nation in the world to succeed in commercializing maglev technology.
The unmanned train, slated to go into service on Wednesday, will run the 6.1-kilometer line between South Korea's main gateway and Yongyu Station in 15 minutes, according to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs. It will be serviced free of charge from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.,
South Korea is the second country in the world to launch a locally-made urban maglev transport service following Japan, the ministry said.
Four maglev trains each with two carriages will run every 15 minutes, with up to seven trains available for operation. A maglev train can carry up to 230 passengers and will run at a maximum speed of 80 km per hour although the train was designed to run up to 110 km per hour.
Maglev trains use a powerful magnetic field to suspend them above rails. The train, which runs 8 mm over the rail, was developed with 100 percent home-grown technology.
Unlike conventional trains, maglev trains have no wheels, which cause noise and vibrations, and allow passengers to travel with superb comfort.
In October 2006, the government launched a project to commercialize maglev train service for citizens living in and around the Seoul metropolitan area. A total of 413.5 billion won (US$382 million) has been spent on the project.
Twenty government agencies and private companies have taken part in the project, including the Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials, Korea Rail Network Authority and Hyundai Rotem.
Test operations kicked off on a 6.1-kilometer rail line built in a town near Incheon airport in November 2012. Commercial service was originally planned to begin in August 2013 but has been delayed in order to correct problems exposed in the year-long test run and reinforce safety measures.
The Incheon International Airport Corp. plans to run the new service free of charge as it is a pilot project. The corporation said it may turn it into a commercial service after consulting with the Incheon city administration and the ministry, depending on demand.
Japan launched its urban maglev train service on an 8.9 km line in Nagoya in March 2005. (Yonhap)