Rail system glitch has public annoyed

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Rail system glitch has public annoyed


Passengers were not allowed to enter the platform of Hoeryong Station yesterday in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi. The light rail system stopped operating for 10 hours. By Park Jong-keun

The light rail system in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi, came under fire again yesterday as its first train failed to depart at 5:40 a.m. as scheduled due to a signaling system abnormality.

The incident marks the 12th time that the light rail transit has suffered a major disruption and subsequently suspended operations since it opened in July 2012.

Uijeongbu Light Rail Transit, the system’s operator, also known as U-line, managed to resume service within 10 hours this time, but that did little to restore an image already discredited by frequent mishaps.

U-line said that it has yet to figure out the specific cause of the signaling glitch.

“When we conducted a test operation at Heungseon Station before running the first train, we found that the signaling system didn’t function properly,” said a representative of U-line.

The alerting system reportedly misunderstood one incoming train as two.

U-line didn’t specify how many passengers were affected by yesterday’s service shutdown, but the number is expected to be significant given the number of morning rush hour passengers, which averages about 7,000 per day.

The operator explained that it sent text messages directly after it noticed the glitch, but the messages were only received by those who are enrolled in that service.

The disruption was met with strong reaction from the public, particularly because of its already poor service record.

In response to the criticism, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said that it will “verify the cause of disruption by dispatching safety experts and engineers to come up with a fundamental solution for the problem.”

With sleek railcars capable of delivering smoother rides and an advanced driverless operating system, the light railway system appeared to hold promise in the beginning.

The 15-station line took five years to build at a cost of 547 billion won ($469 million) - 297.4 billion won from a South Korean consortium led by GS Engineering and Construction, and 249.6 billion won from taxpayers.

But a series of malfunctions since its inception has only served to weaken public trust in the railway.

Last February, the troubled transit service stopped operations to all 15 of its stations due to snow. The suspension forced dozens of passengers to get off seven trains, marking the fifth time the operator halted operations last winter.

Compounding the matter is lower-than-expected demand, which resulted in annual losses amounting to some 20 billion won last year. Many pointed to a miscalculated demand forecast by the government.

The initial report estimated the number of daily passengers to be between 70,000 and 120,000, but the actual figure fell far below estimates.

The Uijeongbu city government is currently involved in a standoff with the central government to secure compensation for the losses.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]
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