Tuesday 2 August 2022

KORAIL Successfully Conducts a Commercial Test of a 50-wagon Freight Train

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The 777m-long freight train test ran from Seoul to Busan.
The train increased transportation capacity by 52%.
The goal is to launch regular commercial operations by the first half of 2023.
It will help to enhance sustainable railway logistics by expanding the modal share of railway freight transport.

Na Hee-seung, KORAIL’s president and CEO, continues to pursue management innovation by “applying smart mobility technology to long freight trains in order to overcome operational losses in the logistics business.”

The commercial test of a 777m “long freight train”, (twice the length of the high-speed passenger train KTX-1 with 20-wagons and at 388m long) has been conducted successfully for the first time in Korea, on the Gyeongbu main line from Seoul to Busan. This successful test lays the groundwork for promoting Korea’s sustainable rail transport industry.

KORAIL announced on 19 July that it had successfully conducted a 50-wagon freight train commercial test from Seoul to Busan.
This test was implemented as part of a resilience strategy to overcome continued operating losses due to COVID-19.

It has the potential to be a new revenue earning model for KORAIL as adopting a smart railway logistics system, such as the long freight train, can promote management innovation.

KORAIL is currently facing operational losses of more than 200 billion won (150 million Euro) per year in the rail transport business alone. In order to overcome this chronic deficit, it is necessary to establish a transport system that can move at least 64 freight wagons at a time. That is why, KORAIL initially carried out a commercial test of a long freight train that connected 50 wagons.

KORAIL aims to create a continuous revenue earning model through the long freight train business, as it would not be affected by any critical situation such as COVID-19, reinforcing their financial solvency.

This is the first time that a 50-wagon freight train has been tested in regular commercial operation on a commercial railway line in Korea. The Seoul - Busan section of the Gyeongbu line was chosen as many other commercial trains operate along here, including passenger trains.

50 container wagons were hauled by two electric locomotives using a general control method. The containers were loaded with high value-added freight to export abroad, such as electronic goods and automobile parts to simulate a regular commercial situation.

The long freight train, which left Seoul around 5.00, arrived safely in Busan at approximately 11.00, travelling a distance of 402.3km.

Unlike the leading countries in the railway logistics business, Korea’s railway network is relatively little due to its small geographical size and the disconnection of the railway lines in the two Koreas (Trans Korean Railways). This is why, KORAIL has had a somewhat passive approach in developing long freight trains to carry out mass freight transport over long distances.

Moreover, unlike neighbouring countries such as China and Russia where the freight trains are operated over distances of at least between 700km to 1,500km, Korea’s average distance for rail freight services is relatively short, at only 257km.

According to research from CARS, a research centre operated by China Railway, the minimum operating distance for rail transport to offer a competitive advantage over road transport is between 700km and 800 km. JR Freight also states that compared to the road transport the modal share of rail can be increased with an operating distance of more than 600 km.

Having long freight trains in operation is, therefore, a very important undertaking for KORAIL, which is preparing to connect their railway network to transcontinental railways and thereby extend the operating distance of their rail transport.

In addition, both the railway stations in Korea which handle freight, and Korea’s railway lines do not meet the requirements for operating long freight trains as most of the Korean railway lines were built during the Japanese colonial era in the early 1900s. Despite KORAIL’s best efforts to overcome this, the commercial operation of a long freight train had not been accomplished before this test run, due to obstacles in securing appropriate sites and improving railway infrastructure to be adequate for operating long freight trains.

Despite all these difficulties, KORAIL President and CEO Na Hee-seung’s initiative made the successful commercial test of a long freight train possible.

Since his inauguration to both positions in November 2021, Na has announced new strategies to improve KORAIL’s business environment and overcome operational losses in the transportation business. He has prepared a phased plan to adopt the long freight train by collaborating with experts in various railway fields to solve any technical problems. The first step of this plan was completed on 19 July with the successful conclusion of the commercial test.

For KORAIL, adopting a plan for operating long freight trains is important, as it can be implemented in accordance with domestic conditions.

KORAIL’s transport business environment is expected to improve significantly by operating the long freight train and harnessing the advantages of railways as a mass transport system. It can, additionally, contribute to enhancing the competitiveness of the national logistics sector and achieve carbon neutrality by increasing the modal share of railway transport through operating long freight trains and implementing smart mobility systems.

Currently, KORAIL operates with an average of 33 container wagons at a time. This means that the transport capacity of the 50-wagon long freight train is 52% higher than the existing ones.

KORAIL can also contribute to achieving the Korean government’s environmental goals such as being “carbon neutral 2050” or “reducing greenhouse gas emission by 37.8% in the transport sector by 2030” through the operation of long freight trains, which are a very environmentally friendly method of transport.

KORAIL aims to launch the regular commercial operation of long freight trains by the first half of 2023 by overcoming the current problems through analysis of the information collected from test equipment installed on the test-run train.

As a passing track at least 900m in length is, additionally, needed on the operating line, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport will be consulted to help solve this problem.

President and CEO of KORAIL Na Hee-seung said that "The long-distance freight train will innovate in such a way that the chronic deficit structure of railway logistics will be dramatically improved. To this end, we are actively pursuing management innovation and fundamental financial structure improvements by creating new revenue models through the implementation of safe, smart, rail mobility technology such as wireless control systems, for example.

For further information, please contact Inchul Beom at beom@uic.org

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KORAIL announced on 19 July that the 50-wagon freight train departed from Seoul and travelled 402.3km to safely arrive in Busan. This is the first successful commercial test of a long freight train in Korea.
The first 50-wagon freight train in commercial operation in Korea with a length of 777m, passes over a bridge.
KORAIL's president and CEO, Na Hee-seung (right), checks the test (...)(KORAIL's president and CEO, Na Hee-seung (right), checks the test operating process by travelling in one of the 777m 50-wagon freight train's locomotives during its commercial test on the Gyeongbu line, from Seoul to Busan on 19 July.
KORAIL’s president and CEO, Na Hee-seung (right), checks the test operating process by travelling in one of the 777m 50-wagon freight train’s locomotives during its commercial test on the Gyeongbu line, from Seoul to Busan on 19 July.
Length of the trains(Length of the trains
Length of the trains