Updated on August 6, 1055 KST: This story has been updated to reflect new details released in North Korean state media
New tram cars purported to be domestically produced have been introduced in Pyongyang for the first time in decades, photos acquired by NK News reveal.
The cars were recently installed along the Kwangbok (Liberation) Street line and connect to Pyongyang Station, Rowan Beard of Young Pioneer Tours (YPT) told NK News on Tuesday.
“It’s very exciting to see these new trams added to the existing Liberation Street line as not much has changed since it was first opened in 1989,” Beard said, adding that modern features absent from older trams such as air conditioning will likely be welcomed by locals.
Pictures of the interior of the tram car released in state media on August 4, however, do not show any signs of air conditioning systems in either the new trams or buses introduced as part of Kim Jong Un’s official inspection.
He also said that the particular line is one of the more popular in the city, linking northwest neighborhoods to the central area surrounding Pyongyang Station.
“The tram system is able to run all over the city around Reunification Street (in the southwest), to the east side along the Party Foundation Monument, and most of the west side,” Beard said.
The photos show a three-car tram with longer front and rear cars and a shorter middle car, with LED station name displays on the ends and sides.
It is unclear how many new cars have been added to the line.
A report of Kim Jong Un’s official inspection of the new tram, as well as a new bus model, was released days after NK News first reported on their appearance in Pyongyang, and included additional details.
According to Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the new tram was “made by the officials, researchers, technicians and skilled workers of the Bus Repair Factory.”
Kim Jong Un reportedly said it “will be wonderful to see the trams and trolley buses made by our own hands running in the streets.”
But the article appeared to admit that not every piece of the new trams were domestically-made, saying the factory only “ensured the domestic production of most of” the components.
The Bus Repair Factory has previously been linked to the small, colorful electric street cleaning vehicles introduced in the capital.
While foreign tourists are allowed to ride the Pyongyang Metro alongside locals, they must charter rides in advance for street trams, Beard said.
Locals are not allowed on the same tram cars as tourists in these cases, he added, and that DPRK authorities require tourists to pay 300 euros to arrange the charter.
North Korean state media has in the past promoted various train and tram designs at annual National Industrial Art Exhibitions, but the new cars seen on the streets of Pyongyang did not resemble these designs.
While the nose of the tram car does look similar to previous designs, the particular diagonally-cut window designs do not appear in artistic renderings found in state media.
A “Kumsusan solar tram design model” was presented at the 2017 exhibition and shown in detail on state outlet Sogwang under the same domestic brand as new metro cars first introduced in 2015, but the manufacturer of the new tram is yet unknown.
Models seen at 2016 and 2018 exhibitions also do not resemble the new tram introduced this month.
State media in late 2015 promoted the attendance of Kim Jong Un to a test run of the new metro train manufactured by the Kim Jong Thae Electric Locomotive Complex.
The new metro cars reportedly opened to the public at the beginning of 2016 with state media promoting great fanfare surrounding the event, but NK News learned that March that by that time, only one prototype was running.
New trolley buses have also been spotted around Pyongyang following heavy promotion of their introduction earlier this year and an official visit to the Pyongyang Trolley Bus Factory by Kim Jong Un.
While new metro cars, trolley buses, and now trams that continue to appear over recent years are likely assembled in North Korea, continued imposition of international sanctions raises questions over material sourcing and parts manufacturing.
The most well-known trams in Pyongyang are the old Czechoslovakian ČKD Tatra red and white KT8D5K models, with others of varying age made by the same company are also prominent throughout the capital.
Both the new tram cars and the new metro cars added in 2016 follow similar color design: white with a red stripe along the side.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NK News
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