Rail Report: Standard Class on the KTX from Suncheon Station to Yeosu Expo, South Korea

Today, we’ll see what it’s like to travel in Standard Class on the KTX by doing a short hop from Suncheon to the coastal city of Yeosu, in Korea’s Jeollanam-do province.

Note: The journey described in this travel report took place on 26 January 2020. Fares, timetables, train hardware, station facilities and other details may change anytime without prior notice.

OVERVIEW

Country : Republic of Korea (South Korea)
Railway company : KORAIL
Service type : High-Speed Rail
Service name/designation : KTX 709
Rolling stock : KTXI
Travel class : Standard (Economy)
Line used : Jeolla Line
Origin : Suncheon Station (dep. 13:37)
Destination : Yeosu Expo Station (arr. 13:59)
Journey time : 22 minutes
Date of journey : Sunday, 26 January 2020

ROUTE

THE EXPERIENCE

Note that some of the pictures of Suncheon Station used below were actually taken on the previous day, when I travelled from there to Jeonju. (Click here to read my Rail Report documenting that earlier journey.)

Step 1: Make your way to Suncheon Station

My guesthouse was within a few minutes’ walk of Suncheon Station, so I simply relied on foot power for transport. If you’re a little further away, download KakaoMap and/or Naver Map (two widely used Korean wayfinding apps) and search for the most convenient bus route.

Let’s head inside and move on to the next step.

Step 2: Buy your train ticket

Ticket machines are available at major train stations. The catch: not all of them take cash, and the ones that do accept cards might take only plastic issued locally (i.e., by Korean banks or Korean branches of foreign banks).

The ticket machines I saw at Suncheon Station would only take domestic credit cards, so I queued up at a manned ticket window to purchase mine.

8,400 won got me a seat to Yeosu Expo Station in the Standard (Economy) Class compartment of the KTX 709, scheduled to depart at 13:59. A First Class ticket on the same train would have cost 13,200 won.

Step 3: Relax in the station whilst waiting for your train

Here’s the station’s main lobby. The ticket windows are on the other side of the hall from where I’m standing.

Passengers in search of provisions will find a doughnut shop and convenience store on the premises. Seating is limited (as seen below), so best to think of these as grab-and-go places rather than as spots for lingering.

Step 4: Head for the platform

You can access the station’s elevated concourse level by escalator, stairs, or lift.

If you’re in need of short-term storage, you’ll find pay lockers on the station concourse (near the top of the escalators/stairs).

Platform (or “track”) assignments are based on destination. The departure platform isn’t printed on the ticket, since it’s liable to change based on operational requirements. However, if you buy your ticket from a manned counter, the agent will usually scribble that information down for you.

The day before, I took the escalators leading down to Tracks 4/5 for a northbound service to Jeonju.

This time, I walked further on and went down to Tracks 6/7 in order to catch a Yeosu-bound train.

Step 5: Board your train

Today’s service was operated using a KTX-I train. Derived from the French TGV Réseau, this type is the first generation of high-speed rolling stock used on the KORAIL network, with markedly different exteriors and interiors from those of the newer second-generation KTX-Sancheon series.

Here’s another picture of our train (the one on the right) taken just after our arrival at Yeosu Expo Station. The one on the left is a KTX-Sancheon.

The first 12 KTX-I trainsets were built in France by Alstom. Another 34 were produced in Korea by Rotem, under licence from the original manufacturer. Today’s train, set number 16 (built in 2002), belongs to that second group.

Let’s hop aboard! Mind the platform gap – but not to worry, that’s what the retractable step below the door is for.

Step 6: Locate your seat and settle in

Your assigned car and seat number are shown on your ticket. Standard (Economy) Class compartments are fitted with 4 seats to a row, two on either side of the aisle.

Here’s something to bear in mind when taking the Standard Class car of a KTX-I train. Unlike the First Class seats on the same train – or all seats, regardless of class, on the newer KTX-Sancheon – not all Standard Class seats on the KTX-I face the direction of travel. About half of the rows in a typical Standard Class compartment are permanently orientated towards one direction, and the other half in the direction opposite. Both halves converge in the middle to form two four-person sets of “family seats”, with a table between the facing rows.

If you’re not keen on travelling “backwards”, it might be a good idea to advise the counter staff of your preference when purchasing a ticket. Of course, this won’t be a problem if you’ve booked a First Class seat on a KTX-I (or any class of seat on a KTX-Sancheon), as the seats are mechanically rotated to face the direction of travel.

Step 7: Enjoy the ride

First Class passengers are offered complimentary snacks and bottled water. Standard Class passengers are offered … well, nothing, haha. But that won’t be an issue if you’ve done the smart thing and raided a convenience store or food kiosk at the station prior to departure.

If the in-seat magazine (mostly in Korean) doesn’t suit, just lean back and enjoy a video or some music through your personal electronic device. A few seats are located next to wall-mounted outlets, but not all rows are fitted with these.

And there we are. Now all that’s left is to sit back, relax, and take in the experience as the train bears us towards our destination at high speed.

The next post will cover the return trip from Yeosu to Suncheon, and it will also include a description of Yeosu Expo Station itself.

Until then, cheerio.

NOTE: If you’d like to learn more about intercity rail travel in Korea (especially on the high-speed KTX), please click here and browse through my other Rail Reports documenting KORAIL’s long-distance train services.

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