Destination South Korea
|Steve Herman||May 13th 2013|
South Korea's national railroad operator has initiated two new lines. They are intended to give passengers a chance to re-explore a scenic rural region whose glory faded amid the decline of the timber and coal industries.
If you are in a hurry, do not take South Korea's newest trains. The electric four-coach O-Train, running four times daily, circles a five-hour 257-kilometer course with stops at 13 stations. The three-coach V-Train operates three times daily on a 70-minute shuttle between two rural stations 28 kilometers apart.
On the O-Train, KORAIL attendant Baeck Da-eun explains that those accustomed to high-speed rail travel will experience a significant change of pace and style during a ride on what is known as the spine of the Korean peninsula, until now mostly accessible only by unpaved winding roads. â€œWhen passengers board for the first time, at first they are awed by the trains' exterior design and the internal dÃ©cor. But what they seem to like most is the ability to take in such beautiful scenery,â€ Da-eun said.
To give passengers time to enjoy viewing the numerous valleys, the V-Train crawls along at an average speed of just 30 kilometers per hour, occasionally stopping at the most scenic spots. Some passengers disembark to stretch their legs and watch a group of farmers. Others remain on board waving to those working in the field and strike up a brief conversation.
While the V-train's leisurely pace, French-designed interior, large windows and whistle stops harken back to a different era, it also features 21st century technology. Each of its three coaches is topped with solar panels, generating five kilowatts a day to power the lights, fans and doors.
Steve Herman writes for VOA, from where this article is adapted.