Important Pyeongchang 2018 Rail Link Scrapped Over Cost

January 5, 2012

Controversy has reared its ugly head today as the promised high-speed rail link that helped Pyeongchang win the right to host the 2018 Winter Olympics has been scrapped by the government.

There is also an insinuation that they may not been a high-speed link planned at all. The Pyeongchang bid’s references to a new link was regarded as key to it winning the favor of International Olympic Committee delegates in July last year, when it easily defeated European rivals Munich and Annecy.

That bid victory came despite concerns among some delegates about the relative isolation of the city, which is 111 miles from Seoul and 155 miles from the main international airport at Incheon.

At the final presentation made to IOC delegates, Pyeongchang reiterated that travel time between the airport and the venue would be reduced to 68 minutes thanks to new track that would accommodate the country’s high-speed trains, known as KTX. This claim had earlier been aired in numerous interviews conducted by bid chairman Yang Ho-cho. 

But it is expected that tourists arriving at Incheon Airport in 2018 will have a trip to Pyeongchang that is 93 to 107 minutes longer than the 68 minutes initially anticipated.

Yet on Wednesday the Joongang Daily — one of the country’s leading newspapers — reported that the government had decided to scrap the project.

Concerns over an estimated cost of $8.7 billion and doubts over how much demand there would be once the games were over led to the decision, according to the report.

The Transport Ministry reacted to the report by saying the high-speed link had never been considered.

“It is not true that the government decided not to build a high-speed railway that would take 68 minutes from Incheon International Airport to Pyeongchang because the plan never existed,” a ministry statement said.

The ministry went on to say that the plan had always been to build a high-speed railway between Wonju in the west of Gangwon Province and Gangneung in the east.

A similar stance was taken in a subsequent news release issued by Pyeongchang’s Organizing Committee, which blamed the confusion on inaccurate media reporting.

“This announcement puts to rest the recent speculations of the local media, which had reported inaccurately that the government was not supporting the new high-speed railway which they thought would cover the distance between Incheon and Gangneung,” the committee’s statement said.

“During Games time, the existing tracks linking the Incheon International Airport, Yongsan (within Seoul), Deokso and Wonju would be enhanced with a new operating system to ensure the shortest possible travel time.”