Overhaul Korail’s safety systems

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Overhaul Korail’s safety systems

Saturday’s triple train crash near Daegu Station could have turned into a massive tragedy if it weren’t for some luck. According to the police investigation, the crash was caused more by human error than a mechanical failure. As it turned out, a passenger guard of the Seoul-bound Mugunghwa train at the station sent a start signal to its locomotive engineer via walkie-talkie, even when the traffic sign pointed to “Stop,” and the engineer, too, started the train without checking the traffic sign after receiving the OK sign from the guard. As a result, the train collided with the side of a KTX train, which left for Seoul a little earlier. That led to the derailment of several cars of the KTX train and a collision with another Busan-bound KTX train that was arriving at the station at the same time.

If the investigation results prove true, it could be dubbed an incident that was caused by train officials’ lax discipline and a critical lack of safety awareness as they totally ignored basic traffic manuals. We are utterly outraged by Korail employees’ leisurely sense of safety for public transportation.

It is also shocking that hundreds of passengers aboard the trains had to escape by themselves - without any real help from the Korail staff at the station. That means that the officers were just sitting on their hands until after the incident - except for releasing a short announcement about it. Not only the crash but also their clumsy response raises alarm bells for the safety of our public transportation system. Korail must come up with more detailed - and disciplined - manuals as well as professional training to effectively deal with such emergencies in the future.

Korail issued an official apology to the public over the weekend. However, a genuine apology should start with drastically raising passenger safety through a thorough probe into the case and relentless efforts to change its overly loose work ethics. The public corporation needs to overhaul all aspects of its operation, including manpower, facilities, systems and manuals.

Although such accidents didn’t occur at Seoul Station or Yeongdeungpo Station, high-speed KTX trains and ordinary trains sometimes arrive at the same time and even use the same tracks in some areas.

Korail must devise substantial ways to improve passenger safety through fundamental solutions - like preventing such a recurrence by separating tracks from each other. Above all, it must not put passengers at risk with its loose work ethics. That’s the only way to recover the people’s trust that it has lost.

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