Public Transport in the DPRK
Pyongyang Public Transport
Pyongyang has the largest public transport network in the country. With the highest population of any city and the scarcity of petrol due to harsh sanctions, public transport is the most efficient method of transport for most of the 3 million residents of Pyongyang. Trolley-buses, trams and a metro system make up the majority of the public transport system in the city and provide a fast alternative to driving. Given the significant number of people living in Pyongyang, the network of transport systems is vast and covers most of the city.
A mural of President Kim Il Sung at Puhung station on the Pyongyang metro
The metro system, one of the deepest in the world at 110m below the surface, was constructed between 1965 and 1972. It consists of 17 stations, 16 of which are operational, and doubles up and a nuclear bunker with large blast doors placed in the hallways leading to the platforms. The rolling stock was originally Chinese but replaced by East German stock which still runs today, alongside more modern locally produced train cars from the Kim Chong Tae locomotive works. The metro is split into two lines:
- The older of the two lines, the line runs from Puhung in the east of the central-city and first passes through the city railway station where there is another station, Yonggwang. The line passes beneath Kim Il Sung square to Sungni station, near Pyongyang’s famous white high rise developments on Sungri street. The line continues towards the Arch of Triumph, stopping between it and the Kim Il Sung stadium at Kaeson before continuing past the tower of eternal life at Jonu station before terminating at Pulgunbyol. In all, there are 8 stations.
- Running from Kwangbok station in the northwest of the city, the line runs north of the city centre, passing beneath the Ryugyong hotel where there is a station, Konsol, located. The line continues, past the House of Culture in the east of the city, where there is another station, Jonsung. The line continues past Kwangmyong station, a stop which was closed in 1995 due to it being close to the Kumsusan palace of the sun, the resting place of President Kim Il Sung. The line terminates at Rakwon, outside the national martyrs cemetery. In all, there are 8 active stations and one closed station.
Pyongyang metro map, including national rail route through the city
One of the city’s main methods of transport is the trolley-bus, electric buses fed from overhead wires that make their way around on the city’s roads and are a common site on the streets of Pyongyang. There are officially 3 depots for the buses and the system was opened April 1962. 10 official routes make up todays network. The network extends from the centre to the east, west, south and far north of the city allowing people to commute easily into the central districts of Pyongyang. The vehicles used vary, since new, modern buses are in service alongside older models, providing a unique feel to the public transport system where old and new operate in the same space at the same time. It is likely that the older models will be phased out as more of the newer vehicles are built.
Modern trolley-bus in Pyongyang, passing by Kim Il Sung square
The Pyongyang tram network consists of 4 lines, three of which are numbered 1 – 3, run throughout the city.
- Line 1 runs from Mangyongdae in the west, through the city centre to to Pyongyang central station
- Line 2 runs from Tosong in the south up north, without crossing the Taedong river, to Munsu, near the Munsu water park
- Line 3 runs from Rangnang, near Tosong, Line 2’s terminus, up north, into the centre of the city, terminating at Sopyongyang train station.
The fourth line runs solely between Kumsusan memorial palace and Samhung tram stop. The line is meant to serve people wishing to travel to the palace to pay their respects, and since the closure of the Kwangmyong station, it is the only public transport stop at the palace. The Samhung stop is located between the Samhung station on the Hyoksin metro line and the Jonu & Jonsung stations on the Chollima and Hyoksin lines respectively.
Tram operating in Pyongyang
1970s photo supposedly showing Kwangmyong station before it’s closure