The Seoul Metropolitan Subway is a metropolitan railway system consisting of 21 rapid transit, light metro, commuter rail and people mover lines located in northwest South Korea. The system serves most of the Seoul Metropolitan Area including the Incheon metropolis and satellite cities in Gyeonggi province. Some regional lines in the network stretch out to rural areas in northern Chungnam province and western Gangwon province that lie over 100 km away from the capital as well as Suwon.
The network consists of numbered lines 1–9, which serve Seoul City proper and its surroundings and named regional railways that serve the greater metropolitan region and beyond. Most of the system is operated by three companies – Seoul Metro, Korail (Korea National Railroad) and Metro 9. However, there are several other lines stretching out to regional provinces.
Its first metro line, Line 1, started construction in 1971 and opened in 1974, with through-operation to Korail suburban railways. Today, the network is one of the largest and most efficient urban railway systems in the world, with 331.5 km (206.0 mi) of track on lines 1–9 alone; wireless and internet service on all trains; and platform screen doors at the majority of stations. It also has real-time train information at every station.
The first line of the Seoul Subway network started construction in 1971 with economic and technical assistance from Japan. The first section of subway was built using the cheaper cut and cover construction method. Line 1 opened in 1974 with through services joining surrounding Korail suburban railway lines similar to the Tokyo subway. Today, many of the Seoul Metropolitan Subway's lines are operated by Korail, South Korea's national passenger and freight railway operator. This is similar to Europe and Japan, where the national railroad often operates local mainline urban railways, such as the S-Bahns in Germany, operated by subsidiaries of Deutsche Bahn, or JR East in Japan, which operates many other urban rail systems in Japanese cities.
It has been described as the world's longest multi-operator metro system by route length. The system was rated as one of the world's best subway systems by CNN, and Jalopnik It is notable for its cleanliness and ease of use along with advanced technology such as 4G LTE, WiFi, DMB, and WiBro accessible in all stations and trains. Nearly all stations have platform screen doors installed; only Gaewha and some minor Korail-operated stations remain with open platforms. By 2017, Korail will completely install screen doors in every station and platform. The world's first virtual mart for smartphone users opened at Seolleung Station in 2011.
All directional signs in the system are written in Korean, English and Hanja. In trains there are in addition many LCD screens giving service announcements, upcoming stop names, YTN news, stock prices and animated shorts. There are also prerecorded voice announcements that give the upcoming station, any possible line transfer, and the exiting side in Korean, followed by English. At major stations, this is followed by Japanese, then Mandarin Chinese, as well. Seoul Subway uses full-color LCD screens at all stations to display real-time subway arrival times, which are also available on apps for smartphones. Most trains have digital TV screens, and all of them have air conditioning and climate controlled seats installed that are automatically heated in the winter. In 2014, it became the world's first metro operator to use transparent displays for ads when it installed 48 transparent displays on major stations of Line 2 in Gangnam District. All lines use the T-money smart payment system using RFID and NFC technology for automatic payment by T-money smart cards, smartphones, or credit cards and one can transfer to any of the other line within the system for free.[Note 1]
Trains on numbered lines generally run on the right-hand track, while trains on the named lines (e.g. Shinbundang Line, Bundang Line, and AREX) run on the left-hand track. The exceptions are the trains on Line 1, as well as those on Line 4 south of Namtaeryeong Station. These lines run on the left-hand track because these rail lines are operated by Korail, South Korea's national railway operator.
The system is organised such that numbered lines, with some exceptions, are considered as urban rapid transit lines located within the Seoul National Capital Area (SNCA), whereas wide-area commuter lines operated by Korail provide a metro-like commuter rail service that usually extends far beyond the boundaries of the SNCA, rather similar to the RER in Paris. The AREX is an airport rail link that links Incheon International Airport and Gimpo Airport to central Seoul, and offers both express service directly to Incheon International Airport and all-stop commuter service for people living along the vicinity of the line. While operating hours may vary depending on the line in question, the Seoul Metropolitan Subway generally operates from 5.30 am until 1 am on weekdays, and from 5.30 am until midnight on weekends.
|Line name||Termini||Stations||Total length||Opening Year||Last Extension||Operator||Owner|
|Line 1||Soyosan||Incheon / Sinchang / Gwangmyeong / Seodongtan||98||192.8 km (Korail)
7.8 km (Seoul Metro)
|1974||2010||/||Government of South Korea / Seoul Metropolitan Government|
|Line 2||City Hall / Seongsu / Sindorim||City Hall / Sinseol-dong / Kkachisan||51||60.2 km||1980||1996||Seoul Metropolitan Government|
|Line 3||Daehwa||Ogeum||44||19.2 km (Korail)
38.2 km (Seoul Metro)
|1985||2010||/||Government of South Korea / Seoul Metropolitan Government|
|Line 4||Dangogae||Oido||48||40.4 km (Korail)
31.7 km (Seoul Metro)
|1985||2000||Government of South Korea / Seoul Metropolitan Government|
|Line 5||Banghwa||Sangil-dong / Macheon||51||52.3 km||1995||1996||Seoul Metropolitan Government|
|Line 6||Eungam||Bonghwasan||38||35.1 km||2000||2001||Seoul Metropolitan Government|
|Line 7||Jangam||Bupyeong-gu Office||51||57.1 km||1996||2012||Seoul Metropolitan Government / Bucheon City Council / Incheon Metropolitan City Council|
|Line 8||Amsa||Moran||17||17.7 km||1996||1999||Seoul Metropolitan Government|
|Line 9||Gaehwa||Sports Complex||30||31.4 km||2009||2015||Seoul Metro Line 9 Corporation||Seoul Metropolitan Government / Seoul Metro Line 9 Corporation|
|AREX||Incheon Int'l Airport T2||Seoul Station||13||63.8 km||2007||2018||Airport Railroad Corporation||Government of South Korea|
|Gyeongui–Jungang Line||Munsan||Jipyeong||55||121.7 km||2005||2017||Government of South Korea|
|Gyeongchun Line||Sangbong||Chuncheon||24||81.3 km||2010||2016||Government of South Korea|
|Bundang Line||Wangsimni||Suwon||36||52.1 km||1994||2013||Government of South Korea|
|Suin Line||Oido||Incheon||14||19.9 km||2012||2016||Government of South Korea|
|Ui LRT||Bukhansan Ui||Sinseol-dong||15||11.4 km||2017||-||UiTrans LRT Co.||Seoul Metropolitan Government / UiTrans LRT Co.|
|Shinbundang Line||Gangnam||Gwanggyo||12||31.0 km||2011||2016||NeoTrans||Government of South Korea / Shinbundang Line & Gyeonggi Railway|
|Incheon Line 1||Gyeyang||International Business District||29||29.4 km||1999||2009||Incheon Transit||Incheon Metropolitan City Council|
|Incheon Line 2||Geomdan Oryu||Unyeon||27||29.1 km||2016||-||Incheon Transit||Incheon Metropolitan City Council|
|EverLine||Giheung||Jeondae – Everland||15||18.1 km||2013||-||Yongin Rapid Transit Corporation||Yongin Rapid Transit Corporation|
|U Line||Balgok||Tapseok||15||11.1 km||2012||-||Uijeongbu LRT Corporation||Uijeongbu LRT Corporation / Uijeongbu City Council|
|Gyeonggang Line||Pangyo||Yeoju||11||54.8 km||2016||-||Government of South Korea|
Line 1, from Seongbuk Station to Incheon Station and Suwon Station, opened on 15 August 1974. On 9 December 1978, the Yongsan-Cheongnyangni line (now part of the Jungang Line) was added to Line 1. Line 2 opened on 10 October 1980. In 1985, the fare system changed from charging by distance to zone and the Edmondson railway ticket changed to a magnetic paper ticket. Line 4 opened on 20 April 1985, and Line 3 on 12 July. On 1 April 1994, the Indeogwon-Namtaeryeong extension of Line 4 opened. The Bundang Line, from Suseo Station to Ori Station, opened on 1 September. On 15 November 1995, Line 5 opened. The Jichuk-Daehwa extension of Line 3 opened on 30 January 1996. On 20 March, the Kkachisan-Sindorim extension of Line 2 opened. Line 7 opened on 11 October, and Line 8 on 23 November. On 6 October 1999, Incheon Subway Line 1 opened.
Seoul Subway Line 6 opened on 7 August 2000. In 2004 the fare system reverted to charging by distance, and free bus transfers were introduced. The Byeongjeom-Cheonan extension of Line 1 opened on 20 January 2005. On 16 December, the Jungang Line from Yongsan Station to Deokso Station opened. The Uijeongbu-Soyosan extension of Line 1 opened and shuttle service from Yongsan Station to Gwangmyeong Station began (with the route now shortened from Yeongdeungpo to Gwangmyeong) on 15 December 2006. On 23 March 2007, AREX opened. The Deokso-Paldang extension of the Jungang Line opened on 27 December. On 15 December 2008, the Cheonan-Sinchang extension of Line 1 opened. The magnetic paper ticket changed to an RFID-based card on 1 May 2009. On 1 July the Gyeongui Line from Seoul Station to Munsan Station opened, and on 24 July Line 9 from Gaehwa Station to Sinnonhyeon Station opened.
The Byeongjeom-Seodongtan extension of Line 1 opened on 26 February 2010, and the Gyeongchun Line opened on 21 December. On 28 October 2011, the Shinbundang Line from Gangnam Station to Jeongja Station opened. The Suin Line, from Oido Station to Songdo Station, opened on 30 June 2012. The U Line opened on 1 July, the Onsu-Bupyeong-gu Office extension of Line 7 on 27 October and the Gongdeok-Gajwa extension of the Gyeongui Line on 15 December. On 26 April 2013 EverLine opened, and the Gyeongui·Jungang Line opened on 27 December 2014. The Sinnonhyeon-Sports Complex extension of Line 9 opened on 28 March 2015. On 30 January 2016 the Jeongja-Gwanggyo extension of the Shinbundang Line opened, followed by the Songdo-Incheon extension of the Suin Line on 27 February. Incheon Subway Line 2 opened on 30 July, and the Gyeonggang Line on 24 September. The Gyeongui-Jungang Line is extended one station east to Jipyeong Station on January 21, 2017, with 4 round trips to Jipyeong Station.
The Seoul Metropolitan Subway system operates on a unified transportation fare system, meaning that subways and buses in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi-do are treated as one system when it comes to fares. For example, a subway rider can transfer to any other line for free (with the exception of Shinbundang Line, EverLine and U Line, which add flat extra charges, amounting to 900, 200 and 300 won respectively). One can also transfer to any city buses for free, regardless of whether it is from Seoul, Incheon or Gyeonggi-do. In the case of Shinbundang Line, if one crosses Jeongja Station, 300 won is charged on top of the 900 won extra charge, although a cashback is offered to frequent riders between Pangyo Station and Dongcheon/Suji-gu Office Station.
Fare payments in Seoul are mainly handled by T-money and Cash Bee, which can also be used on buses, convenience stores and many other popular retail places. Riders must touch in a phone, card or other metro card and enabled device at the entry gates. Popular methods of payments are using NFC-enabled Android smartphones (topped up or billed to the owner's credit/debit card via the T-money app) or credit or check (debit) cards with built-in RFID technology issued by the bank or card company.
The current single-use ticket is a credit card-sized plastic card with RFID technology, which can be obtained from automated machines in every subway station. A 500 won deposit fee is included in the price, and is refunded when the ticket is returned at any station. Multiple use cards are sold in convenience stores and the functionality is included in many credit/debit cards.
Fares (except for single-use tickets) are currently 1,250 won for a trip up to 10 km, with 100 won added for each subsequent 5 km. Once 50 km has been passed, 100 won will be added every 8 km. Single-use ticket users must pay RFID deposit 500 won plus 100 won surcharge to fare.
Half-priced children's tickets are available. The city government also uses Seoul Citypass as a transportation card. Senior citizens and disabled people qualify for free transit and can get a free ticket or enter and exit using side gates rather than turnstiles.
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