[EDITORIALS]A dubious ‘plan’The Ministry of Construction and Transportation has announced that more stations will be considered for the Gyeongbu high-speed railroad linking Seoul and Busan. The SOC (social overhead capital) committee comprised of experts from various fields will evaluate the proposed six cities, including Pyeongtaek, Gimcheon and Ulsan, and make their final decision before the end of the year. The ministry claims there had always been a plan to build additional stations, but that it was provisional and that it was still undecided how many would be added. Since the president mentioned the possibility of building a station in Ulsan a few days ago, people in Ulsan and other areas are already excited over the prospect.
Obviously, the more people use the high-speed railroad, estimated to cost some 20 trillion won ($17.4 billion), the better. However, with considerable squabbling over the exact route and the stations, it is difficult to understand why the government would talk about building additional stations when even the original schedule has been delayed. It is all the more problematic that a decision is apparently to be made based on the president’s arbitrary evaluation of a particular area. How exemplary of Korean bureaucracy’s fawning on authority is the ministry’s announcement of a “plan that already existed but was not decided” as soon as the president says something.
The high-speed railroad has already brought an enormous waste of resources due to unpreparedness, lack of principles and political fiddling. Frequent changes to the construction plan have tripled the originally estimated costs and the schedule has been greatly delayed. There should be no more waste caused by catering to regional interests. One extra station is estimated to cost an additional 200 to 300 billion won and could raise costs further by delaying the opening.
Not a word of this provisional plan to add stations was mentioned at the beginning. If it is belatedly discovered that additional stations will be necessary, it should be for economic and technical reasons, not political reasons aimed at elections next year.