Passenger rail transport in Menghe

Passenger trains at Tang'an Station outside Hyangchun. Note the mix of single-level and bi-level cars, and the pedestrian overpass of a Level 3 station.

Menghe has the largest and busiest passenger rail transportation network in Septentrion, measured in terms of ridership and distance of track. The national rail monopoly, Menghe Railways, recorded 1.5 billion passenger trips in 2019, an average of 2.9 per Menghean citizen. This does not count trips on municipal rapid transit systems; Donggyŏng alone exceeded 3 billion metro passenger trips in the same year. Menghe also has the longest high-speed rail network in Septentrion, with over 21,000 kilometers of track operating at the end of 2020.

Route numbering

Rail directions in Menghe designate routes as either "up" (상행 / 上行, sanghaeng) or "down" (하행 / 下行, hahaeng), depending on the approximate direction of travel. These do not directly correspond to altitudes or compass directions. Rather, "up" describes routes moving toward Baekjin at Menghe's northeast corner, and "down" describes routes moving toward Samtay at Menghe's southwest corner. This practice originated when Federal Railways finished re-gauging the line from Baekiin to Sunju, which ran diagonally across the country.

If a rail line runs in a circle, as some regional routes do, the clockwise (inner) train is designated as "down," and the counterclockwise (outer) train is designated as "up," based on the direction each would be moving at the easternmost point on the route. If a rail line zigzags between directions during its route, the Railroad Regulatory Agency designates the entire line as either up or down based on the general path of travel.

In the numbering of passenger routes, "up" routes are given odd numbers, and "down" routes are given even numbers. Wherever possible, when a given line offers service in both directions, the odd and even numbers are adjacent. Thus on the Donggyŏng-Gyŏngsan high-speed line, route G2421 runs from Gyŏngsan to Donggyŏng, and route G2422 runs from Donggyŏng to Gyŏngsan.

Types of route

Currently, Menghe Railways distinguishes between the following types of passenger train, depending on train speed and the frequency of stops. Note that top speeds differ by region; in the mountainous east, high-speed trains do not accelerate above 300 km/h, while in level areas in the west, top speeds of 350 km/h are permitted. Top speeds also differ by track gauge, though newer (post-2010) rolling stock on 914mm routes is designed to reach a speed of 120 km/h when running on dual-gauge track in order to minimize interference in the flow of traffic.

Tier Letter Menghean name Translation Speed (1435mm) Speed (914mm) Description
Tier I G (高) 고속 여객 렬차 / 高速旅客列車
Gosok Yŏgaek Ryŏlcha
High-speed train 300-350 km/h N/A Direct service between major urban centers on dedicated high-speed track.
K (快) 쾌속 여객 렬차 / 快速旅客列車
Kwaesok Yŏgaek Ryŏlcha
Fast express train 200-250 km/h N/A Direct service between major urban centers on tracks upgraded for increased speeds. They sometimes run on dedicated express track. Includes trains that exclusively run between two cities, e.g. the Sangha-Hwasŏng fast express.
Tier II J (直) 직통 여객 렬차 / 直通旅客列車
Jiktong Yŏgaek Ryŏlcha
Express train 160 km/h 120 km/h Direct service between urban centers at standard or slightly increased speeds.
Tŭ (特) 특급 여객 렬차 / 特急旅客列車
Tŭkgŭb Yŏgaek Ryŏlcha
Limited express train 140 km/h 120 km/h Limited-stop service between major urban centers, usually stopping at edge cities, county-level cities, and rural transfer hubs.
W (緩) 완행 여객 렬차 / 緩行旅客列車
Wanhaeng Yŏgaek Ryŏlcha
Stopping train 120 km/h 100 km/h Regional rail which stops at all stations along a route. Usually covers a long route in a rural or rural-urban area.
Tier III To (通) 통근 여객 렬차 / 通勤旅客列車
Tonggŭn Yŏgaek Ryŏlcha
Commuter train 120 km/h 100 km/h Stops at all stations on the suburban portion of the route, but only stops at major transfer stations within the urban center.
D (都) 도시 여객 렬차 / 都市旅客列車
Dosi Yŏgaek Ryŏlcha
Metrotrain 100 km/h 80 km/h Classification for urban rapid transit which is controlled by Menghe Railways rather than the municipal rapid transit corporation, usually because it runs on the national railway network.
Ch (車) 궤도공교차 / 軌道公交車
Gwedo Gonggyocha
Rail bus 120 km/h 80 km/h Railbus or railcar trains (sometimes multiple units) on rural or suburban routes with low passenger traffic. Not to be confused with trams, which are operated by the municipal government.
Tier IV Y (旅) 여행 렬차 / 旅行列車
Yŏhaeng Ryŏlcha
Tourist train varies varies Trains for dedicated tourist service.

Intercity express trains, limited express trains, and stopping trains each have a sub-category of temporary (임시 / 臨時, Imsi) trains. These trains are not scheduled for year-round service, but are added to the schedule during periods of peak travel, such as the new year travel season. Temporary trains can also be mobilized on an as-needed basis for:

  • Evacuating refugees from an area affected by a disaster;
  • Briginging supplies and volunteers to an area affected by a disaster;
  • Bringing new conscripts to training centers during the twice-annual training period;
  • Moving active-duty military personnel between bases.

Service classes

History

A carriage for Party members in the 1990s.

Passenger trains in the Three States Period, the Federative Republic of Menghe, and the Greater Menghean Empire used the three-class seating system common in Casaterran countries at the time. The exact service quality varied between the different private rail companies, but in geheral, first-class carriages had fine upholstered seating and served meals, second-class carriages had cushioned seating in a 2+2 arrangement, and third-class carriages had wooden benches or beds. Sometimes third-class carriages had additional open space for carrying farm goods or livestock.

Under the Democratic People's Republic of Menghe, passenger trains officially offered only one level of service, designated "people's class." During the 1970s, some trains added carriages reserved for members of the Menghean People's Communist Party, one of many privileges which Party members could enjoy. These carriages had more comfortable seating and more storage space, and in the 1980s they were the first to receive air conditioning. They also tended to be less crowded. Even so, compared with comfort standards in Casaterran passenger trains, they were more analogous to second class carriages.

Following the Decembrist Revolution, Party carriages were instead reserved for military officers, and later for civil servants and members of the newly-founded Socialist Party. In 1997, some routes also introduced business-class carriages, which were similar to foreign first-class service and were open to all types of travelers for a higher ticket price.

Menghe Railways streamlined the seating class system in 2003 as part of its re-branding process, aiming to unify the various status-based cars into a single tier system. This resulted in the system described below, which is used today.

Tier I classes (G, K)

High-speed trains (G and K type) offer tickets in the following six classes. Air conditioning is present on all high-speed trainsets, and complimentary wi-fi is present on all high-speed trainsets built after 2010. These amenities are factored into the ticket price. Additionally, alternating carriages in the multiple unit have either a bathroom or a garbage bin and hot water dispenser. Because the high speed of these trains leaves less time between stations, sleeper cars and premium suites are rare, with most trains featuring a combination of first class and second class carriages.

  • Premium seat (PJ): 1+2 seating arrangement with increased leg room and cushioned seats as well as increased storage space. These sections are usually located at the front and end of the train, with a view into the cab.
  • First class seat (1J): 2+2 seating arrangement with increased leg room between seats. The storage space for luggage, at the front and/or rear of each car, is also larger.
  • Second class seat (2J): 2+3 seating arrangement, with similar seat quality to economy class on an airplane. As on first-class cars, seats have fold-out tables and power outlets for charging electronics.
  • Premium sleeper (PCh): Large 2-seat compartment containing a fold-down bed, a desk, storage space, and a bathroom with a shower. Very rare, and only used on certain routes.
  • First class sleeper (1Ch): Four folding beds/benches per compartment, with two on each side. There is also a table in the middle. These cars are only used on long-distance routes, such as the Trans-Hemithea High-Speed Railway and the South Hemithea High-Speed Railway.
  • Second class sleeper (2Ch): Recently introduced for some long-haul domestic routes. Uses two-level bunks, perpendicular to the hallway on one side and parallel to it on the other.

Tier II classes (J, Tŭ, W)

Express trains (J and Tŭ type) offer two standard classes of service, plus seating and sleeper versions for both, for a total of four common ticket types. As on high-speed rail, some trains carry premium suites with service above the first-class level, but these are not common due to reduced passenger capacity. On older rolling stock, first class carriages have air conditioning while second class carriages have fans only; second class carriages built after the mid-2010s all feature air conditioning by default, though it may be less powerful.

All K-type trains and most J-type trains run on 1435mm track, but there is a single narrow-gauge intercity line (the "Mini Express") which runs from Donggyŏng to Yŏngjŏng, including night service with sleeper cars. It has the same four-class pricing scheme and roughly the same comfort level, but the seating and bunk layouts differ slightly because the train cars are physically narrower.

  • Premium suite: Luxury car with 2-seat compartments, each containing a fold-down bed, a desk, storage space, and a bathroom with a shower.
  • First class seat: 2+2 seating arrangement with increased leg room between seats, reclining seat backs, and fold-down tray tables, similar to second class on high-speed trains. The storage space for luggage is larger.
    • Mini Express: 1+2 seating arrangement.
  • First class sleeper: 2-person compartments, each with two beds that can fold down into benches and a table in the middle, as well as a locking door which separates the compartment from the hallway. It is permitted to buy both tickets for one compartment and reserve it for oneself.
    • Mini Express: 2-person compartments, but with the bunks stacked against the wall opposite the hallway and upward-folding seats on either side.
  • Second class seat: 2+3 seating arrangement with reduced space for baggage storage. Most second class seats on current rolling stock are upholstered, but some still take the form of straight-back benches, which are preferred as they allow children or additional passengers to squeeze in on packed trains. This is the preferred carriage type for low-income migrant workers traveling between the city and the countryside.
    • Mini Express: 2+2 seating arrangement, with individual seats instead of benches.
  • Second class sleeper: 6-person compartments with 3 non-folding bunks per side. There are no doors separating compartments from the hallway, but each bunk has a curtain (or on newer rolling stock, a segmented plastic door that rolls up to one side) to provide privacy.
    • Mini Express: 4-person compartments with 2 non-folding bunks per side.
    • Bilevel sleeper car: 4-person compartments with 2 non-folding bunks per side.

Due to the short distance between stations and the frequent disturbance from passengers disembarking, W-type trains do not include sleeper cars, and they almost never include premium suite cars. W-type trains do, however, have first- and second-class seating cars built to standards identical to the ones above, including the alternate seating arrangements in narrower 914mm gauge trains.

Frequent-stop classes (To, D, Ch)

Ch-type railbus on single track at a Level 1 station, the lowest tier of rail service.

These trains do not have a class system. Instead, like the rapid transit trains or city buses they resemble, they assign all passengers to the same seat type (see "ticketing" below). These trains also lack sleeper and diner cars, which would be redundant on a frequent-stop, short-distance, high-density route.

Cars on these trains are generally designed with a relatively large amount of standing room to accommodate rush hour passenger levels. Air conditioning is present on all new rolling stock of this type, though some older carriages on less-traveled routes still lack it; this is not factored into ticket price.

Special carriages

Special carriages for Party members and military officers used to be a common sight on Menghean trains, as they allowed the Communist and later Socialist parties to offer privileges to higher-status personnel while maintaining the impression that money did not buy additional luxury in a socialist state. These high-status cars disappeared in the 2003 reorganization, when many of them were re-classified as first-class carriages. Nevertheless, a few types of special-purpose carriage remain.

  • Barracks car: A four-bunk sleeper reserved for military personnel. Each car has storage lockers at one end, so overall passenger capacity is similar to a three-bunk second-class sleeper. These cars are added to trains at the start of the conscript training period, during the deployment of conscripts to the front, and during the call-up of reservists. Trains composed entirely of barracks cars may also be used to move military units around the country, with vehicles and other equipment on a separate train.
  • Women-only sleeper compartment: Since the 1960s, sleeper trains have included a small number of women-only compartments, usually 1 to 3 per car but sometimes with all women-only compartments in a single car. Passengers must request a women-only ticket when making a purchase, and must show ID to confirm that they are female. The remaining compartments are mixed.
  • Women-only car: These appeared on some To, D, and W class trains in 2016, as part of an effort to combat groping and sexual harrassment on crowded rush hour trains.

Amenities

A hot water dispenser on a high-speed carriage. Passengers can drink hot water by itself or use it to brew tea.

All trains except D, Ch, and some Y types have onboard restrooms, either one per carriage or one in every other carriage. Restrooms on older trains use Hemithean-style squat toilets, but on newer trains these were replaced with sitting toilets, which offer greater stability on bumpy track and turns. Newer trains also have onboard holding tanks, while some older ones dumped waste onto the tracks in between stations. D (urban rapid transit) and Ch (railbus) trains do not have restrooms, so passengers must disembark and use the restroom at a station.

Non-D, Ch, and Y trains usually offer some kind of onboard catering, though this also depends on the length of the route. Where catering is present, it is available to both first-class and second-class passengers. Food trolley service typically includes fruit, packaged snacks, juice, tea, instant noodles, and light alcohol. Some long-distance routes have a restaurant car or a car with a food sale counter. All trains except D and Ch types have a hot water dispenser for making tea or instant noodles, and first-class carriages on newer trains also have a cold water dispenser to cater to foreign customers.

Currently, smoking is prohibited in passenger cars on all Menghean trains, and the policy is enforced with smoke detectors in bathrooms and cabins. Ignoring the law or tampering with the smoke detectors is punishable by a heavy fine, and on high-speed routes it may automatically trigger the train's emergency braking system. It was once common for Menghean trans to allow smoking in the restaurant car of non-high-speed trains, but since 2018 this has been prohibited as well. Passengers are, however, allowed to step onto the platform for a smoke break during long (5+ minute) stops at stations.

Ticketing

Ticket purchase and ticket recovery machines at Haeju West Station.

Tier I ticketing (G, K)

Ticketing on high-speed and fast intercity trains works similar to ticketing on airplanes. Passengers must purchase tickets for a specific seat, and they make these purchases ahead of time. It is possible to buy tickets online, over the phone, or via the Menghe Railways app, though this requires registering under one's resident ID number, so it is only open to citizens and permanent residents. Until 2016, foreign tourists had to book their tickets through a third-party travel agency; in 2016, Menghe Railways added an option to buy tickets online with a foreign passport as identification. It is possible to purchase tickets online as little as one hour before the train's scheduled departure, though after that point one must purchase tickets at the station in person. In-person purchases also require the buyer to provide a resident ID card or foreign passport.

Starting in 2015, citizens and permanent residents have been able to use their ID card or smartphone app (with ID information) as a substitute for a physical ticket on G and K type trains. Because tickets are linked with one's ID number for security purposes and the Menghe Railways ticketing database links ID numbers, tickets, and seats, either of these can substitue for a ticket at the gate check and aboard the train. It is not necessary for security staff and on-board conductors to visually check the card or app, as ID cards produced after 2004 have built-in MIFARE chips for non-contact reading. Individuals without ID cards or smartphone apps must retrieve a physical paper ticket from the station using the confirmation number from their online purchase.

Passengers on these ticket types wait in the main station building until their train is approaching the station. The platform opens to passengers 15-20 minutes before the train's scheduled departure. In order to enter the platform, passengers must pass through automated ticket-check gates, which can read paper tickets, smartphones, and ID cards. A conductor also performs ticket checks once passengers have boarded.

G and K type high-speed trains do not allow passengers to buy "non-seat" tickets; every passenger aboard the train must have a seat, except for children below the age of 5. During peak travel periods, such as the New Year vacation, some routes sell a limited number of "waiting line" tickets; passengers with these tickets are not guaranteed a seat on their train, but will be allowed to board if another passenger cancels their trip or does not show up. If unable to board, waiting line passengers can board the next train with empty seats on that route.

Tier II ticketing (J, Tŭ, W)

Tier II trains use a mix of pre-purchased tickets and automatic tickets (described below). Passengers have the option of purchasing tickets ahead of time, either by phone, over the app, on the Menghe Railways website, or at the station's ticket desk and ticket machines. This is the only way to get tickets for premium-class seats, first-class seats, and sleeper cars. It is also the only way to get a reserved seat. As with high-speed trains, remote purchases are possible up to one hour before departure, but in-person tickets are still possible until five minutes before departure (when the platform gate is closed at major stations).

Unlike G and K trains, which require that all passengers have a seat assigned when passing through the gate to the platform, Tier II trains also sell "non-seat tickets" (좌석 없는 표, jwasŏk ŏbnŭn pyo). These allow the holder to board the train, but do not entitle the holder to a seat. They are equivalent in price to a second-class seat, and allow the holder to occupy a second-class seat if one is available, but the passenger must vacate the seat if another passenger with that seat reserved boards the train. Some stations enforce an informal limit on the number of non-seat passengers allowed to board a train, to limit crowding and improve safety, but non-seat overcrowding is common during peak travel periods.

Tier II trains also differ from G and K trains in that they allow passengers to swipe on and off using card readers at the carriage doors, as described in the section on stopping trains below. By default, swiping on entitles the passenger to a second-class non-seat ticket, meaning that card-swiping passengers can sit in a second-class seat if one is available but must vacate it if the passenger who reserved that seat boards.

Tier III ticketing (To, D, Ch)

Originally, all Tier III trains used paper tickets, which are sold at stations through a ticketing desk or an automated machine. These tickets do not correspond to a specific train or seat, but allow the passenger to ride any train going between the start and end stations for a 12-hour period. This allows prolonged stops at individual stations, as long as the passenger does not reverse direction. On To trains, a conductor makes regular ticket checks; ticket checks are less common on D trains, but the fines are higher. On Ch railbuses, passengers show the ticket to the driver when boarding, or run it through an automatic ticket-check machine.

Beginning in the 2000s, Tier III trains have supplemented the paper tickets with an e-ticketing system. Card readers are installed next to the train doors, allowing passengers to swipe their phones or transit cards as they board. Passengers swipe again when they disembark, and the ticketing system automatically deducts a fare from their account based on the distance between stations. One minute after the train starts moving, card readers are switched off, to prevent accidental swiping. If passengers forget to swipe out, the fare ceiling for the route is deducted; there are also backup card readers on platforms for passengers who forget. Because there is no flat boarding fee, passengers who disembark and embark on a later train, or who transfer between trains, do not pay a higher fare than those who take a direct route (apart from rounding). When train conductors carry out ticket checks, they use a handheld scanner to check that passengers' cards or smartphones show a ride in progress. On 1 February 2020, Menghe Railways announced that all regular-service trains have been equipped with card and phone readers, which were introduced more slowly on rural routes.

Currently (June 2020), the following cards and apps are accepted. Passengers must be careful not to swipe multiple devices at once, as this may result in an error or a charge on both accounts. Devices linked to the same account (e.g., a OneStop phone and OneStop card) cannot be swiped twice on one ride, but devices linked to different accounts (e.g., a OneStop card and a Menghe Railways card) can both be swiped to pay for a companion.

  • Menghe Railways ticketing app (also used for ticket purchases)
  • OneStop universal transit app
  • Menghe Railways smart card
  • OneStop smart card
  • OneStop prepaid tourist card
  • Resident ID card (post-2004 version)

Fares

Menghe Railways uses a uniform fare calculation structure on all of its routes, except for D-type trains, which use the same fare pricing system as the municipaliy they serve, and Y-type tourist trains, which are priced individually based on the route in question. Fares are calculated on the basis of a baseline per-kilometer charge, which changes based on the train type, the seating class, and any extra amenities. The official formula is presented below:

Ftot = R(d)b × t × c × a

where the letters in the formula are defined as follows:

Ftot
Total fare for the trip.
d
The rate-making distance, usually equal to the length of track which the train follows between the two stations, rounded to the nearest kilometer.
R(...)
A function which modifies the rate-making distance by applying a discount for longer journeys.
  • First 100 km: Journeys below 100 km are rounded up to 100 km.
  • 101st to 200th km: full per-kilometer fare applied.
  • 201st to 500th km: 10% discount per kilometer.
  • 501st to 1000th km: 20% discount per kilometer.
  • 1001st to 1500th km: 30% discount per kilometer.
  • 1501st to 2500th km: 40% discount per kilometer.
  • 2501st km and up: 50% discount per kilometer.
b
The baseline fare per kilometer, as set by Menghe Railways. It represents the per-kilometer charge for a second-class seat on a non-air-conditioned train on a W-type regional train over a distance of 100 to 200 kilometers, i.e. with all other modifiers equal to zero. The baseline fare per kilometer in 2020 was ₩0.2931, equal to $0.0129 Universal Septentrion Dollars at then-year exchange rates.
Type Coeff.
G 5
K 2.5
J 1.5
1.3
W 1.0
To 1.0
Ch 0.8
t
A modifier for the type of train used. The conversion table is on the right.
c
A modifier for the seating class used. The coefficients are as follows:
  • Second-class seat: 1 (baseline)
  • First-class seat: 1.5
  • Second-class sleeper: 2
  • First-class sleeper: 3
  • Premium seat: 5
  • Premium sleeper: 10
a
A modifier for the amenities aboard. This is equal to 1 by default,
  • plus 0.2 if the carriage or multiple unit is air-conditioned,
  • plus 0.2 if the carriage or multiple unit has free wi-fi,
  • plus 0.4 if there is a full-time attendant assigned to the carriage.

Fare calculations for some potential routes are listed below. The final fare are listed in Menghean Won, along with the equivalent values in USD.

First-class sleeper on an air-conditioned high-speed train with wi-fi from Baekjin High-Speed Station to Ban Xoang Station (3,808 km):

(100 + 200×1 + 200×.9 + 500×.8 + 500×.7 + 500×.6 + 1808×.5) × 0.2931 × 5 × 3 × 1.4 = ₩14,982 ($662.04)

Second-class seat on an air-conditioned high-speed train with wifi from Donggyŏng Central Station to Hyangchun West Station (551 km):

(100 + 200×1 + 200×.9 + 51×.8) × 0.2931 × 5 × 1 × 1.4 = ₩1,069 ($47.24)

Second-class sleeper on a non-air-conditioned, non-wifi limited express train from Gyŏngsan New Station to Junggyŏng Main Station (1,083 km)

(100 + 200×1 + 200×.9 + 421×.8) × 0.2931 × 1.3 × 2 × 1 = ₩715 ($31.60)

Seat on a non-air-conditioned, non-wifi railbus on the Misu Line from Daebyŏk to Yusan North Station (18 km):

(100) × 0.2931 × .8 × 1 × 1 = ₩24 ($1.05)

Unlike many other train services around the world, Menghe Railways does not charge "peak" and "off-peak" ticket prices on any of its lines, including commuter ones. It also keeps ticket prices fixed throughout the year, even during public holidays (see below). While the baseline fare per kilometer is updated every few years, it has risen slower than inflation, and as a result the "real" cost of train tickets has declined since the early 1990s.

Internet integration

Menghe Railways app and card

After assessing the success of smart cards on municipal rapid transit systems, Menghe Railways launched its "RailCard" on March 1, 2008. It was originally used on high-volume Tier II and III lines in the eastern part of the country, including commuter trains serving the Donggyŏng and Haeju areas, and on existing Tier I high-speed lines. In its initial form, RailCard only allowed swipe-on/swipe-off ticket purchasing for Tier III trains; on Tier I and II trains, passengers had to purchase tickets online through the Menghe Railways website, but could use the RailCard linked to their account as an alternative to a physical paper ticket.

The first generation of Menghe Railways card readers were also programmed to read MIFARE chips in passengers' Resident ID cards, which could be registered with one's Menghe Railways online account. Resident ID card swipes could only be used to represent tickets purchased online, however, and could not be used for instantaneous ticket purchase on boarding To, D, and Ch trains. For full functionality, passengers would have to use a separate Menghe Railways RailCard.

Swipe-on/swipe-off ticketing on Tier II trains was added in 2011, and a Menghe Railways smartphone app was added in 2013, after delays in testing for backwards compatibility. The app uses the smartphone's own NFC equipment to offer the full range of functions offered by the physical RailCard.

OneStop transit app and card

The OneStop transit card (Menghean name: Tongtongka, short for 통일 교통 카드 / 統一交通카드 Tongil Gyotong Kadŭ, "unified transport card") is a universal smart card introduced in 2016. In addition to replicating the full functionality of the RailCard, it is also compatible with bus, tram, and rapid transit services in all major Menghean cities. This allows users to swipe off of a train and into a municipal metro station without needing to carry multiple cards.

Development of the OneStop transit card and app began in 2012, with the backing of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications. It was officially launched for operation on May 12th, 2016, with simultaneous rollouts in 12 major East Coast cities. Since then, it has rapidly spread around the country, and in July 2020 it was fully integrated into the public transit systems of all of Menghe's municipal governments. Minor cities and towns are still in the process of upgrading their bus lines for card compatibility, and there has been some discussion of integrating it into domestic airline service.

Simultaneously with the rollout of the physical OneStop smartcard, the OneStop transit corporation launched a downloadable OneStop app. Like the Menghe Railways app, this app uses a smartphone's NFC equipment to transmit the user's account information at card-swiping stations, to mark the beginning of a trip or link with online-purchased tickets. The railway tab of the app also allows the user to reserve an available seat or upgrade to a first-class seat or sleeper bunk while on board the train, and it uses satellite navigation to estimate the accumulated fare charge on an in-progress trip. There is also a link to the Menghe Railways website, allowing users to purchase tickets ahead of time through the app. In addition to reloading one's OneStop funds through the app or at ticketing stations, it is also possible to link the account to one's debit card, credit card, or electronic payment account, and directly withdraw funds from there.

Stations

Levels of station

Bulguksa Station, a Level 2 station serving 914mm track. Note the 380mm platform and staff booth.
Chŏn'an Station, a Level 3 station in the outskirts of Insŏng. Note enclosed overpass building in the background.

The Railroad Regulatory Agency classifies Menghean railroad stations into six levels (the sixth was added in 2018). Among the three lower levels, the ranking refers to the types of facilities present at the station. These stations are mainly found in rural areas.

  • Level 1 station: Equivalent in facilities to a bus stop. Has a station sign, line map, and schedule, but no permanent staff and sometimes no permanent structures. If single-tracked, there is one platform for both directions. Ticket machines are sometimes absent, with passengers paying the fare to the driver in cash after boarding. Still present on some Ch-type railbus routes.
  • Level 2 station: Equivalent in facilities to a metro station. Has a ticket machine and two platforms, one for each direction. Also has at least one permanent employee in an on-site booth; this employee's main job is to sell tickets, but they may also double as an information guide, lost-and-found keeper, platform cleaner, and security guard. Pedestrian overpasses and underpasses are sometimes present, but at other stations pedestrians must cross to the opposite platform via level crossings at the ends of the station.
  • Level 3 station: Incorporates grade-separated pedestrian access to all platforms (overpasses or underpasses), and has a permanent building adjacent to the station with waiting space, refreshment stands, public restrooms, and indoor ticketing machines. Usually has separate ticketing, cleaning, and information staff. Generally, Level 3 stations have no more than 4 platforms, and as a rule they are designed to handle under 10,000 passengers per day.

Above Level 3, the basic amenities are the same: the waiting area is separate from the platforms, there are permanent ticket-counter and help-counter staff, and there are shops selling food and souvenirs. These stations are differentiated from one another by the number of passengers they can handle, based on the Railroad Regulatory Agency's assessment of the floor plan and platform count. Note that these passenger totals only include trips on trains run by Menghe Railways, and do not include trips on municipal metro lines which connect to the station.

  • Level 4 station: Can handle 10,000 to 30,000 passengers per day.
  • Level 5 station: Can handle 30,000 to 100,000 passengers per day.
  • Level 6 station: Can handle over 100,000 passengers per day.

Bi- and tri-level configuration

Stairs and escalators link the departure area and platforms at Insŏng South Station. Note the lack of passengers waiting on platforms.
The underground arrivals area of Donggyŏng North Station, with signs pointing to metro lines, exits, and the airport shuttle.

Many of the major railway stations built after 2000 have used a "bi-level" or "tri-level" configuration. This refers to the arrangement of floors, and should not be confused with the level of the station in the ranking above. These designs are intended to improve safety, security, crowd flow, and cleanliness by separating the waiting areas from the platforms. Many old stations still have a main building adacent to the platforms at ground level, but upgrade and expansion work has focused on adding overhead ticketing gates and separate walkways for arriving passengers.

In a tri-level station, the tracks and platforms are located at ground level. The waiting area for passengers, or departures level, is built over the tracks, with a stairway and elevator leading down to each platform. This allows passengers to wait outside the "gate" to their platform, as in an airport, and descend the stairs past a ticket check shortly before or after their train arrives. The level for arriving passengers is built underground, with stairs and elevators descending from the platform level. It includes waiting and meeting areas, but on a smaller scale than the departure level, and it has separate stairs and elevators to the ground and arrival levels.

A bi-level configuration is used on Level 4 stations, or when the refurbishing circumstances do not permit underground construction. In this station type, the departures level is above the tracks as above, but its stairs and elevators connect to one end of the platform. The arrivals level is also above the tracks, but at the other end of the platform. Exit gates enter into a separate waiting room from entry gates, though the two rooms are connected by hallways or bridges.

In either case, the multi-level design means that the flows of arriving and departing passengers are separated: departing passengers follow one route onto the platform, and arriving passengers follow another route off of it. For trains making long stops at busy stations, the ticketing gates for departing passengers open a few minutes after the train arrives, giving arriving passengers time to disembark and vacate the platform. This minimizes the number of places where crowds flow in opposing directions against each other.

Im Do-yŏn's principles of station design

The spacious departure hall of Hyangchun West Station. The doors along either side lead down onto the platforms.

Many of Menghe's new railway stations were influenced by the work of renowned architect Im Do-yŏn, who designed Chanam New Station (built 1995-1999). While previous station construction and expansion had embraced a marble-and-concrete style of socialist realism, Im favored of a modern steel-and-glass design with sweeping curves and wide open spaces. The resulting building won widespread architectural acclaim, and became a model for new station architecture in the 2000s onward.

At a press conference in 2005, Im summarized his "principles of station design" in the following points:

  1. Passengers should walk on the platforms only to board or exit their train. The rest of the time, they should be in comfortable waiting areas, separated off from the tracks.
  2. Foot traffic should flow in one direction wherever possible. Platforms should have separate stairways for passengers who want to enter or exit. The station should have separate entrances and exits, and these should be clearly marked.
  3. Relatedly, the station should be intuitively laid out and easy to navigate. A newcomer to the city should be able to make their way from any gate to any platform with as little confusion as possible. The floor plan should be simple and the route from the entrance to the ticket desks to the platforms should be simple and clearly marked.
  4. Waiting areas should include commercial establishments (restaurants, snack bars, souvenir shops), but these should be oriented toward waiting passengers. If locals go to the station for the purpose of shopping, this will add to the crowd management problem.
  5. The station should be well-lit at all times and in all places. Waiting areas should have abundant natural light during the day and abundant artificial light at night or in overcast weather. Hallways and stairwells should have thorough artificial lighting, and no dark shadows.
  6. The station should be well-ventilated. Fresh air should circulate in tunnels and underground spaces. Waiting areas should be heated in winter and air-conditioned in summer, and separated from the outdoors.
  7. Make use of wide, open spaces, especially in the waiting area. Avoid crowded forests of pillars, except where the structure demands it. Avoid narrow hallways and tunnels. Avoid low ceilings.
  8. Pipes, wires, ventilation shafts, and maintenance equipment should be hidden from view but easy to access.
  9. Surfaces and construction materials should be easy to clean, polish, or if necessary, replace. This applies to furniture and decoration as well. The whole station should be cleaned regularly.

A popular story holds that Im Do-yŏn developed these principles during a visit to Themiclesia in the early 1990s, in which he toured Tjo-ts'jakw-men Station and used it as a model of what not to do in station design. In interviews, Im has politely denied this account, instead explaining that he intended Chanam New Station as a rejection of the socialist realism, brutalism, and broader totalitarian architecture of Menghean stations built under the DPRM and during the 1990s. Many of these structrures, he contended, were "strong in appearance but weak in function," with crowded waiting areas and hallways that bent to fit the shape of the building. His stations, he insisted, would smoothly marry appearance and function, for a more harmonious design. Even so, certain architects have endeavored to apply Im's design principles to neo-socialist architecture, with the recently-completed Jŏksan East Station standing as the most iconic example.

Security

Baggage checks

The Tjo-ts'jakw-men Incident in Themiclesia in 2003 prompted the newly-formed Railway Regulatory Association to order a comprehensive review of counter-terrorism security measures in Menghe's railway system. As a maximum-security step, the review commission considered installing metal detectors and bag scanners at major stations, but ultimately concluded that all stations would have to be thus refitted in order to make the system watertight - a move which was deemed prohibitively costly. While a knife-armed religious extremist attacked passengers on an underground train in Sunju in 2004, as of yet there had been no foiled or successful attacks on Ministry of Railways (later Menghe Railways) trains or stations.

The RRA did recommend additional security precautions around high-speed rail, on the basis that high-speed trains were more visible targets and more dangerous to passengers if damaged or derailed. Menghe Railways responded by instituting security checks on all passengers boarding G and K trains. Because G and K trains require a platform height of 1250mm rather than 550mm, these trains have their own dedicated platforms at train stations, and sometimes their own waiting building. This leads to two security check configurations when boarding high-speed trains, both of them involving an x-ray scan of luggage and a metal detector or millimeter-wave scanner for passengers:

  • Layout 1: passengers must pass a security check when entering the waiting area which serves high-speed train platforms. When their train arrives, they pass through a ticket check at their gate and then descend to the platform.
  • Layout 2: the waiting area is shared between high-speed and conventional trains. When boarding a high-speed train, passengers pass a ticket check at the top of the stairs down to the platform. At the bottom of the stairs is a security check which passengers must go through before entering the platform. Because of the added screening delay, the ticketing gate opens to traffic earlier but there is a second waiting area on the platform.

Security personnel

Train types other than G and K do not require security screenings for all passengers, but Menghean train stations do incorporate other security measures, depending on size. All stations above Level 3 are required to have full-time security staff on site, with the number of staff varying by station. Beyond calling for support in the event of a terror attack, these officers can also deter petty crime, give instructions to visitors, search for lost items on trains, and help passengers with physical disabilities or heavy baggage. Indeed, these tasks account for most of their work. Additional security personnel rotate between stations as needed, and the security presence increases during periods of increased sensitivity or geopolitical tension.

In normal times, policing at stations falls to the Railway Police, a branch of the Internal Security Forces (themselves part of the Ministry of Internal Security). From 2003 to 2007, policing work fell to the Security Office of Menghe Railways; before 2003, it fell to the Ministry of Railroads. In addition to patrolling stations, the Railway Police are also responsible for protecting rail yards and the national track network. They also conduct periodic patrols of moving trains, boarding at one station and disembarking at the next.

During periods of heightened security, other special police units may take part. The Internal Guards reinforce station security when high-profile officials are passing through, and the Armed Police may bolster security if there is a serious terror threat. If there is a riot or terror attack, the Rapid Response Brigades or TDJB would be called in to stop it. During periods of extreme tension, the Army can also post active or called-up reserve personnel around stations, which happened most recently during the Innominadan Uprising.

Effects of station design

A side-effect of Im Do-yŏn's principles of station design, as listed above, is that new-type Menghean stations are relatively easy to patrol and police. Large, well-lit rooms allow for video surveillance with minimal blind spots; direction-segregated pedestrian flow makes it difficult to sneak past ticket and security gates; and the separation of waiting passengers from platforms makes it easy to spot suspicious persons and abandoned bags. In an unlikely worst-case repeat of the Tjo-ts'jakw-men Incident, the simple, unobstructed station layout and extensive use of glass walls makes it easy to evacuate civilians and difficult to obstruct a police or military operation.

Peak travel seasons

Peak travel volume at Sunju New Station in December 2017.
Passengers in winter coats squeeze into a fully-sold K train during Yusin Week.

Menghe sees dramatic increases in domestic travel during the Lunar New Year (late January or early February), the Tomb-Sweeping Festival (early April), Golden Week (the end of July), and Yusin Week (late December). The southwestern part of the country, where most residents practice Shahidism, also sees a surge in travel around the Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr festivals. These festivals, which are public holidays in their respective parts of the country, customarily require that people return to their ancestral homes to spend time with family members. Because Menghe saw extensive labor migration from the rural interior to the coastal cities during the Menghean economic miracle, this means that more than one million people travel long-distance at the start of each holiday period. Rising incomes also mean that increasingly large numbers of middle-class residents use the extended holidays as an opportunity for tourism.

This dramatic surge in domestic travel places large-scale strain on the country's transportation infrastructure. Passenger trains see an especially high volume of travel, as second-class train tickets are cheaper than air fare and most migrant workers lack cars. To deal with the increased ridership, Menghe Railways brings a number of I-class (Imsi, "temporary") trains into service during peak travel seasons, and attaches additional cars to regular-service trains. This exercise requires a great deal of logistical planning beforehand, as nearly all trains held in reserve or maintenance have to be made operational. Even with these efforts, second-class cars routinely out-sell their seat capacity, and aisles crowded with sitting or sleeping passengers are a common sight.

This high travel volume was one of the main factors driving Menghe's ambitious and costly investment in high-speed and conventional-speed rail service. It also has a major influence on the design of Menghean railway stations, as described above: after massive crowds swamped the smaller and poorly-laid-out stations of the DPRM era, designers placed a major emphasis on crowd management and easy navigation in new and expanded buildings. New and old stations alike also take additional part-year measures to deal with the increased crowds, such as opening rows of temporary ticketng booths outside the station.

Despite all these measures, there is one step Menghe Railways is not permitted to take: raising fares during the holidays. This restriction, set by the Railroad Regulatory Agency, relates to Menghe Railways's status as a mixed-motive public enterprise, and Menghe's conservative-socialist ideology: raising fares at peak travel hours would place an unjust financial burden on 9-to-5 commuters and migrant laborers, and make it harder for poor workers to visit their families. In this manner, low, stable ticket prices serve as a subsidy for domestic travel and a source of stimulus for travel-related sectors.

International rail service

While most of Menghe's passenger rail transport is domestic, there are a few routes offering service to neighboring countries.

Trans-Hemithea High-Speed Railway

The THHSR, which runs from Nukkumaa to Dayashina, covers a distance of 1,787 kilometers in Menghe in each direction. En route, it passes through stations in Suhait, Jinjŏng, Ryŏjin, Hapsŏng, Songrimsŏng, and Baekjin. The Menghean government initially lobbied to have the line stop in Donggyŏng, as it passes through all other member states' capitals, but this would have required a large U-shaped diversion between Songrimsŏng and Baekjin.

As part of the international agreement behind the route, all six cities with stops on the route expanded their stations to add an "international terminal" for THHSR traffic. At these platforms, all passengers departing the train must pass through a customs check. Menghean citizens who boarded at another Menghean station on the line can show their passport or Resident ID card and pass through the green channel, allowing relatively convenient domestic travel on the line to boost ridership. Additionally, because customs checks are only performed after exiting the train, a passenger can travel from Dzhungestan to Polvokia via Menghe without obtaining a Menghean visa.

South Sea High-Speed Route

The South Sea High-Speed Route is a high-speed railway line offering service from Ryŏngdo (the capital of Polvokia) to Vien Chan (the capital of Argentstan). When completed in 2023, it will extend all the way to San Miguel (the capital of the Republic of Innominada). It is intended as a marker of political unity between Polvokia, Menghe, Argentstan, and the Republic of Innominada, and since the line opened in early 2020 ridership has been extremely low.

Due to the tense security situation in the former Innominadan states, and the large number of Menghean stations on the route, a THHSR-style thru-travel solution was judged impractical. Instead, all passengers must disembark from the train at Ban Xoang and Baekjin, the ports of entry within the Menghean border. There, passengers must go through customs, including a thorough bag check and millimeter-wave body check. This also means that passengers traveling from Polvokia to Innominada via Menghe must possess a valid transit visa. After the check is complete, passengers board the train again and continue on their journey if going to a station further along the line. While this creates added inconvenience when crossing the border, it also means that once the train is on the Menghean portion of its route, domestic passengers can board and disembark without any additional screening.

Conventional rail to Dzhungestan

Apart from the Trans-Hemithea High-Speed Railway, there are two train routes offering regular passenger service between Menghe and Dzhungestan. One runs from Suhait to Dörözamyn, and the other runs from Jinjŏng to Höryynbataar and Khönditsyn. Both lines are non-electrified and use diesel locomotives. Additionally, both have a single terminal stop in Menghe, and conduct a customs check at that stop.

Conventional rail to Polvokia

Station workers exchange bogies under a passenger carriage in Myŏngjin.

There are three rail crossings on the Menghe-Polvokia border, all of which handle passenger service. One is the single-track, non-electrified route between Hapsŏng and Chalainur. The second runs north from Myŏngjin, and is double-tracked and non-electrified. The third crosses the border at Baekjin, where it stops in the city of Byŏnggang on the other side.

Most railroads in Polvokia are built in 5 foot 6 inch broad gauge (1676mm), compared with 1435mm for mainline routes in Menghe. This creates problems for cross-border train travel. The bridges across the White River at Myŏngjin and Baekjin, built in the late 1930s, use broad-gauge track, but divert into a rail yard shortly after crossing the border. Until the 2000s, passengers would disembark at these locations, pass through customs, and then either transfer to a separate Menghean train, or wait as an on-site crane facility performed a bogie exchange on the carriages.

In 2006, Menghe and Polvokia began running cross-border trains with variable gauge wheelsets, eliminating the need for a long bogie exchange or train transfer at the border. Trains must still reduce speed when passing over the gauge-change mechanism, but the overall interruption is greatly reduced. The rail bridge at Baekjin was also electrified with an overhead wire; as Menghe and Polvokia both use Kolodorian 3 kV overhead wires, this created no compatibility issues.

See also