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President Moon and KTX-Eum train in station

South Korea to phase out diesel trains

Image credit: Yonhap via REUTERS

South Korea aims to replace all its diesel-hauled passenger trains with new electric bullet trains by 2029, President Moon Jae-in said, in a move that will cut some 30 per cent of carbon emissions from railway travel.

Moon joined a trial run on Monday of the KTX-Eum, an electric multiple-unit train, as South Korea - one of the world’s most fossil fuel-reliant economies - envisages a ‘greener’ recovery from Covid-19.

“We will replace all diesel passenger trains with the KTX-Eum by 2029 and establish eco-friendly railway transport nationwide,” Moon said at a station in the eastern city of Wonju, according to Reuters. 'Eum', included in the train name, means 'link' in Korean.

Moon continued: “By doing that, we will cut 70,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, which is equivalent to planting 10 million pine trees, and advance to a carbon-neutral society.”

The train, built by Hyundai Rotem, only produces around 70 per cent of the emissions produced by diesel-powered trains, which collectively generated 235,000 tonnes of emissions in 2019, according to the state-run Korail Railroad Corp.

When in service, the top speed of the KTX-Eum train is 260km/h (162mph), slightly slower than the 300km/h of the regular KTX express trains.

This is South Korea’s first electric train with distributed traction, needing no separate locomotive. Each set is powered from overhead lines and comprises individually motored cars with driving trailers at each end.

Compared to locomotive-type trains, the distributed power train has higher acceleration and braking performance, befitting the nation’s railway system where the distance between stations is relatively shorter than other countries.

Moon is promoting a ‘Green New Deal’: a six-year plan aimed at boosting jobs and curbing heavy reliance on fossil fuels in Asia’s fourth-largest economy. Moon has declared that South Korea will be carbon-neutral by 2050.

The initiative focuses on investing in more environmentally friendly energy and transport, such as solar power and electric and hydrogen cars, and building digital infrastructure.

Korail chief, Son Byung-seok, told Moon that the company aims to expand high-speed services from 29 per cent of all routes to 52 per cent by 2024, as part of the government’s plans to funnel 70 trillion won (£47bn) into rail networks.

Coal currently makes up 40 per cent of South Korea’s electricity mix, with renewable power standing at less than 6 per cent.

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