[EDITORIALS]Neglect causes rail mishapsThe number of rail accidents has risen sharply this year. Including Friday’s crash, which involved a freight train and a commuter train traveling from Seoul to Busan, there have been nine major train accidents and more than 200 rail mishaps involving passengers since January. This represents an increase of more than 60 percentage points from the identical period last year. Casualties in this time frame have increased to 36, compared with 17 last year.
It is frustrating to know that most of the accidents could have been prevented if only workers had paid proper attention to their jobs. In particular, the Mugunghwa commuter train in last week’s accident rear ended the freight train, which was stopped at a station. It was past 7 a.m., bright enough to see. It is hard to believe that more than 100 passengers were killed or wounded because of a driver’s negligence. The operator of the freight train misinterpreted a wireless message to go and stopped the train. Then the conductor at the station directed the commuter train to proceed. In other words, the basic operational safety was violated from A to Z. We are horrified at the mere thought of a major train accident involving one of the high-speed trains that go into service next April. They can run at more than 300 kilometers an hour.
Slack discipline of railworkers should no longer be ignored. Some unskilled workers have filled the jobs of those punished for their role in last spring’s illegal rail strike, but their numbers are insignificant.
The rail authority must give its employees safety education. A rail safety law must be enacted to replace existing regulations issued by the head of the national railroad. One reason for the frequent accidents is the ownership structure of the national railroad. Since accident compensation is paid out of tax money, the seriousness of safety erosion is not felt by the managers. If the rail administration were turned over to a public entity and workers’ salaries were cut in proportion to compensation paid to victims, accidents would decrease. A law turning the railroad over to a corporation must be enacted soon.