Director-General Sohn Myung-soo of the Railway Bureau of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said in a recent written interview with NewsWorld that the Incheon-Gangneung Railroad will open in December as scheduled. The new link will support transportation for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Railroad authorities, including KR, will do all they can to ensure that foreign athletes and tourists have no problems getting around.
He also said every measure has been taken to make sure that no environmental or safety problem develops on the railroad by holding test runs and monitoring environmental measures put in place during the construction processes. He said environmental monitoring will continue for three years, even after the railroad kicks off its operation. Following are excerpts from the interview:
Question: Can you please tell us if the Incheon-Gangneung Railroad being built to support transportation for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics will be opened in December as scheduled?
Answer: The Incheon-Gangneung High-speed Rail will open in December as scheduled, having completed major work on the new railroad in the first half of this year and successfully conducting all kinds of tests, including test runs by the construction sections of the railroad.
Three sections are completed: a 6.4 km link between Incheon International Airport and the second passenger terminal of the airport; the second section, a 108.4 km long link connecting Susaek and West Wonju, which involved turning the existing railroad into high-speed rail; and the third section, a 120.7 km link between Wonju and Gangneung.
Test runs on the new rail line are scheduled to be finished in November and the entire railroad, from the Incheon Int’l Airport, the Seoul Railroad Station, Cheongyang-ri and to Gangneung will be officially opened in December as scheduled.
The tests will gradually increase the speed of the rail to the maximum of 250 km per hour in stages, and everything will be checked to make sure it’s operating as expected. The test runs will involve checking the entire railroad system, including supplementary systems, information systems, and operation manpower, to make sure there are no defects.
Dignitaries, including MOLIT Minister Kim Hyun-mee, Chairman Cho Jung-shik of the National Assembly Land, Infrastructure and Transport Committee, and Chairman Kang Young-il of the Korea Railway Association, attend the 2017 Railway Day anniversary at the Kim Koo Museum in Yongssan-gu, Seoul, on Sept. 18.
Q: Can you please tell us the progress of the construction of the railroad from Incheon Int’l Airport to Gangneung?
A: In the first half of this year, major work, including the rail tracks and support systems, were completed, and the stations between Wonju and Gangneung are scheduled to be finished by September.
The map of the Incheon-Gangneung High-speed Rail extending for 330 km with running time of 2 hours with the section linking the Incheon Int’l Airport and Cheongyang-ri to be open only from Feb. 1-28 during the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics.(Photos: MOLIT)
Q: Please tell us about the test runs between Incheon and Gangneung and their impact on the other sections of the line?
A: The plan calls for a KTX train to make 51 single trips from Feb. 1 to Feb. 28, 2018, during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. When the new railroad is opened in December, KTX will run from Incheon to Gangeung non-stop so that passengers won’t have to transfer trains. Special cars will be reserved for athletes and foreign tourists so the global sports events run as scheduled.
The rail authorities will do their best to make the new railroad play a key in Korea’s balanced national development by cutting the logistics time between the sections of the new rail line.
Q: Can you please tell us the new construction technologies that went into the construction of the railroad from Wonju to Gangneung?
A: The “Shield-TBN Method” was deployed in the core section of the Gangneung Tunnel (2,860 meters long) that extend through downtown area (1,160 meters) of Gangneung.
The construction crew had to deal with some problems, including the emergence of cultural assets and people protesting the tunnel being dug under downtown area, which delayed some work.
However, no milestones were missed in the construction schedule thanks to the outstanding technologies that went into securing the stability of the structures, and other technologies that helped minimize noise from the heavy machinery.
Q: Will you please describe the environmental protection measures that were taken during the construction of the new railroad line?
A: An environmental evaluation was conducted over the entire course of new line, and then measures were taken based on the results of the evaluation.
The environmental measures usually include soundproof walls, “ecological tunnels” and bridges for animals, and facilities for polluted and dirty water. A professional environmental organization has been hired to monitor the environmental protection measures that were put in place.
With the fourth section of the Daegwallyong Tunnel (21.7 km in length) inside the Paekdudaegan (Paekdu Mountain Range) Environmental Protection Zone, the Paekdudagan Environmental Protection Advisory Team was organized in consultation with such environmental organizations as the Green Union and the Paekdudagan Preservation Society and they have been monitoring the areas where the new railroad is being built.
On their checklist are: proper measures to protect the environment, especially for mammals, amphibians and underground water streams. The environmental organizations even praised the environmental monitoring of mammals because the initiative began from the outset of the project and continued until the end.
The environmental monitoring will continue even after the new railroad is opened for at least another three years to make sure the environmental protection measures put in place are maintained.
Q: What are some of the measures taken to prevent accidents during the construction period?
A: Safety was the foremost concern for the Daegwallyong Tunnel as it is be the longest mountain tunnel in Korea, stretching for 21.7 km. Safety tunnels were dug in four areas just in case a train develops a problem after entering the tunnel for 5.5 minutes, along with disaster escape routes, pressure equipment, and intelligent air circulation facilities.
The tunnel also has a space in the middle where four trains can park to avoid potential disaster, along with heaters for turnouts during cold spells in the winter. Condition can be extreme in the mountainous regions of Daegwallyong Pass in Gangwon Province. Also, CCTVs have been installed in important areas so that the safety of the railroad is maintained all the time.