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OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — The Korean National Railroad next month will start expanded metropolitan subway service out of Seoul that will include for the first time stops near Osan Air Base and Camp Humphreys.

The new Metro service will give members of both military communities an alternative to the military shuttle bus that many rely on for trips to Yongsan Garrison in Seoul; the buses are subject to frequent delays in expressway traffic, and sometimes are sold out.

The Metro service also will provide an alternative to the off- base private bus lines some troops use, and to regular railroad service.

Beginning Jan. 20, Korail will begin service on a new extension of its Number 1 Kyongbu Metropolitan Line, which runs from Seoul to Byeongjeom, a stop south of Suwon. A second branch of the existing line runs from Seoul to Incheon.

In extending the Metro line, Korail hopes to ease highway congestion by giving commuters an alternative to buses or cars.

“I think that would be really neat,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. David Brown of Osan’s 51st Security Forces Squadron. “It would be quicker to go back and forth,” he said. “It would be a lot quicker than the bus.”

Korail expects some 3 million passengers will use the line daily at various points between Seoul and Chonan, Park said.

“We want traffic convenience in this area,” said Park Chul-ho, a Korail Metropolitan Division official.

Korail is spending $1.1 billion to extend the line from Byeongjeom to Chonan City, south of Pyongtaek. Chonan is the site of Korea’s revered National Independence Hall.

The line’s initial timetable calls for trains to run daily, from 5 or 6 a.m. to midnight, Park said.

The trip between Seoul and Songtan will take about 1 hour and 20 minutes, Park said, and cost 1,600 won (about $1.50); between Seoul and Pyongtaek, about 1 hour, 30 minutes, and cost 1,700 won (about $1.60).

By comparison, the shuttle bus from Osan Air Base to Yongsan is scheduled as a 1 hour, 10 minute trip and costs $4.25. A weekday afternoon trip last week ran 1 hour, 40 minutes in congested traffic. But a Yongsan to Osan Air Base trip that night, in lighter traffic, ran on time.

And last Saturday night, a succession of buses scheduled to depart Osan Air Base for Yongsan was sold out, according to a ticket agent at the base bus station.

The No. 1 Metro will make its Songtan stops inside the existing Songtan Station, which now is served only by one of its regular rail lines, the Mungungwha-ho, or Orange Line.

The Metro stop in Pyongtaek will be at the existing Pyongtaek Station, a station served currently by the Mugungwha and the Saemaul-ho, or Blue Line.

Senior Airman Isaac Emler is looking forward to the new line. He last visited Seoul in September for a three-day break with his girlfriend, and took the shuttle from Osan Air Base to Yongsan.

“I think that’d be great,” said Emler, who remembers “a lot of traffic going back there” on his September trip.

“Actually, we got into some really bad traffic on my trip, it just took forever,” said Emler, of the 51st Mission Support Squadron.

In fact, he said, the bus took so long reaching Yongsan he feared they wouldn’t enter the installation gates before curfew fell.

“I was afraid I wasn’t going to make it,” Emler said.


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