The Pyongyang Subway (Korean: 평양 지하철도; MR: P'yŏngyang Chihach'ŏlto) is the rapid transit system in the North Korean capital Pyongyang. It consists of two lines: the Chollima Line, which runs north from Puhŭng Station on the banks of the Taedong River to Pulgŭnbyŏl Station, and the Hyŏksin Line, which runs from Kwangbok Station in the southwest to Ragwŏn Station in the northeast. The two lines intersect at Chŏnu Station.
Daily ridership is estimated to be between 300,000 and 700,000. Structural engineering of the Metro was completed by North Korea, with rolling stock and related electronic equipment imported from China. This was later replaced with rolling stock acquired from Germany.
The Pyongyang Metro has a museum devoted to its construction and history.
Construction of the metro network started in 1965, and stations were opened between 1969 and 1972 by former president Kim Il-sung. Most of the 16 public stations were built in the 1970s, except for the two most grandiose stations—Puhŭng and Yŏnggwang, which were constructed in 1987. In 1971, there was a major accident during the construction of a tunnel under the Taedong River for the Ponghwa Station. Some sources say at least 100 workers died in the accident. This particular section of tunnel was never completed; the metro network is now completely located on the western side of the river.
China had provided technical aid for the metro's construction, sending experts to install equipment made in China, including electrical equipment made in Xiangtan, Hunan and the escalator with vertical height of 64 m made in Shanghai.
Pyongyang Metro is among the deepest metros in the world, with the track at over 110 metres (360 ft) deep underground; the metro does not have any above-ground track segments or stations. Due to the depth of the metro and the lack of outside segments, its stations can double as bomb shelters, with blast doors in place at hallways. It takes three and a half minutes from the ground to the platform by escalator. The metro is so deep that the temperature of the platform maintains a constant 18 °C (64 °F) all year. The Saint Petersburg Metro also claims to be the deepest, based on the average depth of all its stations. The Arsenalna station on Kiev Metro's Sviatoshynsko-Brovarska Line is currently the deepest station in the world at 105.5 metres (346 ft). The Porta Alpina railway station, located above the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland, was supposed to be 800 m (2,600 ft) underground, but the project was indefinitely shelved in 2012.
The Pyongyang Metro was designed to operate every few minutes. During rush hour, the trains can operate at a minimum interval of two minutes. The trains have the ability to play music and other recordings.
The Pyongyang Metro is one of the cheapest in the world to ride, at only five won (worth half of a US cent) per ticket. Instead of paper tickets, the Metro previously used an aluminium token, with the emblem of the Metro minted on it and the Korean "지". It now uses a paper ticket system, with "지" printed with blue ink on it. Tickets are bought at station booths and scanners are present but non functional. Smoking and eating inside the Metro system is prohibited and is punishable by a large fine.
The Pyongyang Metro network consists of two lines:
- Chollima Line, named after a winged horse from ancient Korean mythology. It spans about 12 kilometres (7.5 mi). Construction started in 1968, and the line opened on September 6, 1973. The Mangyongdae Line forms part of the Chollima Line. The total route contains the Puhung, Yonggwang, Ponghwa, Sŭngni, Tongil, Kaeson, Jonu, and Pulgunbyol stations.
- Hyŏksin Line, which literally means renewal, spans about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi). Regular service started on October 9, 1975. The route contains the Kwangbok, Konguk, Hwanggumbol, Konsol, Hyoksin, Jonsung, Samhung, and Rakwon stations. The closed Kwangmyong station is located between the Samhung and Rakwon stations.
Unlike most railway systems, the majority of the stations' names do not refer to their respective locations; instead, stations take their names from themes and characteristics reflecting North Korea's revolution. A notable exception, Kaesŏn Station ("Triumph station"), is located at the Arch of Triumph.
The network runs entirely underground. The design of the network was based on metro networks in other communist countries, in particular the Moscow Metro. Both networks share many characteristics, such as the great depth of the lines (over 100 metres (330 ft)) and the large distances between stations. Another common feature is the Socialist realist art on display in the stations - such as murals and statues. Staff of the Metro have a military-style uniform that is specific to these workers. Each Metro station has a free toilet for use by patrons. Stations also play state radio-broadcasts and have a display of the Rodong Sinmun newspaper.
In times of war, the metro stations can serve as bomb shelters. For this purpose the stations are fitted with large steel doors. Some sources claim that large military installations are connected to the stations, and also that there exist secret lines solely for government use.
The map of the Hyŏksin line shows two additional stations after Kwangbok: Yŏngung (영웅) and Ch'ilgol (칠골), both of them reportedly under development. The map of the Chollima Line, on the other hand, shows four additional stations, two at each end of the line—Ryŏnmot (련못), Sŏp'o (서포), Ch'ŏngch'un (청춘) and Man'gyŏngdae (만경대)—which are planned or under development.
In addition to the main system for passenger use, there is reportedly an extra system for government use, similar to Moscow's Metro-2. The secret Pyongyang system supposedly connects important government locations. There is also reportedly a massive underground plaza for mobilization, as well as an underground road connecting two metro stations.
When operations on the Metro started in the 1970s, newly-built DK4 passenger cars were used, made for North Korea by the Chinese firm Changchun Railway Vehicles. A prototype train of DK4 cars was constructed in 1971 and the first 15 cars were sent to Pyongyang on July 30, 1973. 112 cars had been provided to North Korea by September 1978, but eventually 345 cars were acquired.
The Chinese-made rolling stock was later sold back to China for use on the Beijing Subway, where it was used in three-car sets on line 13. It has since been replaced by newer DKZ5 and DKZ6 trainsets, and it is not known if the DK4 units were returned to Pyongyang.
Since 1997, the Pyongyang Metro has used former German rolling stock from the Berlin U-Bahn. The North Korean government supposedly bought more than twice the number of trainsets required for daily use, prompting speculation that the Metro might contain hidden lines and/or stations that are not open to the public. There are two different types of rolling stock:
- GI ("Gisela"), former East Berlin stock, 60 built between 1978 and 1982.
- D ("Dora"), former West Berlin stock, 108 built between 1957 and 1965.
The trainsets were given a new red and cream livery in Pyongyang. All advertising was removed and replaced by portraits of leaders, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. In 2000, a BBC reporter saw "old East German trains complete with their original German graffiti". After about 2006, Type D cars were mainly used. The type GI rolling stock was withdrawn from Metro service in 2001, and those cars are now operating on the railway network around Pyongyang.
In 2015, Kim Jong-un rode a newly manufactured four car train set which was reported to have been developed and built at Kim Chong-t'ae Electric Locomotive Works in North Korea, although the cars appeared to be significantly renovated D-class cars.
In general, tourism in North Korea is allowed only in guided groups with no diversion allowed from pre-planned itineraries. Foreign tourists used to be allowed to travel only between Puhŭng Station and Yŏnggwang Station. However, foreign students were allowed to freely use the entire metro system. Since 2010 tourists have been allowed to ride the metro at six stations., and in 2014 opened all of the metro stations to foreigners. University students traveling with the Pyongyang Project have also reported visiting every station.
As of 2014[update], it is possible for tourists on special Public Transport Tours to take metro rides through both lines, including visits to all stations. In April 2014, the first tourist group visited stations on both metro lines, and it is expected that such extended visits to both metro lines will remain possible for future tourist groups.
The previously limited tourist access gave rise to a conspiracy theory that the metro was purely for show. It was claimed that it only consisted of two stops and that the passengers were actors.
Pyongyang Metro has its own museum. A large portion of the collection is related to President Kim Il-sung providing "on-the-spot guidance" to the workers constructing the system. Among the exhibits are a special funicular-like vehicle which the president used to descend to a station under construction (it rode down the inclined tunnels that would eventually be used by the escalators), and a railbus in which he rode around the system.
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