중앙데일리

Rail strike disrupting operations nationwide

Nov 27,2009
Top: On the first day of the railway workers’ strike, containers pile up at Obong Station in Uiwang, Gyeonggi, as operation of freight trains was disrupted yesterday. Bottom: At Yongsan Station in central Seoul, passengers crowd the platform as subway operations were delayed by the strike. By Kang Jung-hyun, [NEWSIS]
Thousands of commuters and almost all cargo train operations were disrupted by the Korean Railway Workers’ Union’s “indefinite strike” that began yesterday in protest over Korail’s decision to abrogate a collective bargaining agreement.

Over 15,000 of its 25,000 union members walked out early yesterday morning, forcing trains to begin operation around 6 a.m. after a 30-minute delay. Korail’s cargo train operation was almost completely paralyzed by the strike, with only seven out of 300 daily cargo trains running, according to Korail.

Kim Chang-hyeon, a 32-year-old company worker anxiously waited at Sindorim Station to transfer to subway line No. 2 after he arrived here from Bucheon Station, subway line No.1 .

“It normally takes me 20 minutes to get here but it took me over 30 minutes because the path to transfer to subway line No. 2 was packed with passengers,” Kim said.

KTX and Saemaeul trains remained unaffected by the strike but only 89 percent of subway trains on lines No. 1, 3 and 4 operated in the morning.

Passenger train and subway operations gradually improved as Korail and the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs added 5,500 emergency workers. The emergency workers included retired Korail train drivers, Korail office workers and military personnel who hold licenses for train operations.

Yesterday morning was a nightmare for passengers using express subways on subway line No. 1 as only four of the 23 trains were in operation until 9 a.m. Passengers using subway line No. 1 are likely to suffer the most during the strike as the last train heading to Incheon Station now ends at 9 p.m., over three hours earlier than normal.

“I’m worried that my last train home will be overcrowded because of the strike,” said Han Jeong-ho, a 38-year-old company worker who lives in Bucheon, Gyeonggi. Commuters and travelers are also concerned about a further disruption in train operations during the strike because Korail announced on Wednesday that it would run a full schedule of trains until Saturday.

Starting Sunday, 86 percent of subways and trains will be in operation from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., the busiest morning commuting hours.

Only 65 percent of trains and subways will be operated after that.

“We have secured enough extra emergency workers until the third day of the strike but train operation rate will deteriorate after the third day,” a Korail official said. The union is demanding a pay hike, reinstatement of sacked workers and a stop to cuts among full-time union employees.


By Chang Chung-hoon, Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]





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