Korail union strike slated to affect KTX services

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Korail union strike slated to affect KTX services

The Korea Railroad Corporation (Korail) confirmed yesterday that a prolonged strike by unionized workers from the state-run railway operator will affect bullet train services next week.

Korail will reduce its service volume by 10 percent to 12 percent from Tuesday, halting some 24 of 200 KTX runs during the weekday and 24 runs of the usual 232 through the weekend. Along with looming disruptions on KTX, Korail will also trim its commuter-only lines connected to the Seoul metropolitan subway from Monday. Korail-run trains on subway lines No. 1, 3 and 4 will reduce service by 8.4 percent. Seoul Metro and Korail jointly oversee the operation of the three subway lines.

The walkout, which began Monday in protest of the company’s decision to bring in a separate operator for a new KTX line, has had significant effects on freight services, which plunged to as low as 35 percent of normal volume during the past week.

Union members initially went on strike in an attempt to prevent board members from approving a different operator for the upcoming KTX line, which they argue will only pave the way for the privatization of the state-run company.

The railway company, however, denies the allegation, saying that splitting off the KTX line departing from Suseo-dong has nothing to do with privatization.

While the strike had little impact on KTX services, other long-distance passenger services running express (Saemaul) and regular (Mugunghwa) trains have operated at an average of 60 percent since union workers walked.

Concerns grew that the strike could have a more broad-reaching effect on commuter lines as one Korail-run subway train stopped at Cheongryangri Station early yesterday morning after experiencing technical difficulties.

Another Korail train deviated from its track yesterday at Gwangundae Station ? formerly Sungbuk Station ? in Seoul. The affected train was not carrying any passengers. Some say that the shortage of workers has partly contributed to such accidents.

The conflict between the two parties has only intensified as Korail has imposed a massive suspension against more than 7,000 strikers so far. The union of Seoul Metro, which operates subway lines No. 1 through 4, will also strike Wednesday in support of Korail’s strike.

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

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