Then there’s the KTX – it’s the same technology as the French (oh, no – now all the railroad opponents will REALLY hate me) TGV. We arrived at the Busan station 30 minutes before boarding and had some standard-class tickets … don’t try this for any departure. They often sell out ahead of time.
We boarded 20 minutes early. The cabin looks like a shiny new regional jet: immaculate, but cramped … two seats on either side of an aisle, a small overhead space for baggage. The seat pitch wasn’t sadistic, but it wasn’t ideal for a guy with a 34-inch inseam.
I forgot about that once we started. Once we cleared the city limits, the KTX spooled up to full speed. It took me a while to notice the lack of the usual “clack clack clack” of rail travel. It was as smooth and noiseless as flying. According to the Korail website, the line uses welded tracks to eliminate the noise. I don’t know how conventional tracks are joined.
I also noticed a long deceleration times as we approached stations. I didn’t time them, but it felt like each was several minutes long. For refreshment, there was an airline-style beverage cart rolling at regular intervals.
Aside from all that coolness, we arrived on-time in Busan. My final word on the KTX: A rail line this fast and convenient could be a great alternative to shorter flights in the U.S. The KTX is carries 100,000 per day. What could it do here?
AMTRAK – St. Louis to Chicago
5.5 hours, $40
KTX (Korean Train Express) – Busan to Seoul
2:45, about $45