City gov’t unveils plans to overhaul Seoul Metro

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City gov’t unveils plans to overhaul Seoul Metro

In response to a rear-end collision involving two Seoul Metro subway trains last week, the Seoul city government will replace all older subway trains with new ones by 2022, allotting 877 billion won ($877.5 million) for maintenance.

The accident, which injured 238 people, has sparked worries over the safety management of public systems, particularly at a time when public discontent with the government’s response to crises has surged following the Sewol ferry disaster on April 16.

In the aftermath of the subway accident, Jang Jeong-woo, the president of Seoul Metro, offered to resign yesterday during a briefing that announced a series of new safety measures.

Concerns over older trains arose after a mechanical conflict between the old and new safety systems was pinpointed as the likely contributor to the incident.

The safety system is designed to maintain safe distances between each train but was not functioning properly on May 2 when a moving train rammed into the back of another that had stopped at Sangwangsimni Station on line No. 2.

The older safety system in question is the automatic train-stopping system (ATS) that was developed in Japan. ATS does not sync with the newer system, the automatic train-operation system (ATO), which often triggers frequency disruptions, according to an internal report written by a Seoul Metro employee.

Seoul Metro, which operates subway lines No. 1 through 4, uses both systems. The budget will be used to buy new trains equipped with the ATO system. Under the plan, 500 older trains on line No. 2 will be replaced by 2020.

Seoul Metro runs 1,954 trains, and 741 of them, or 36 percent, are more than 18 years old, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said the city government will set up an integrated safety control center to oversee all of Seoul’s subway lines in 2019 - lines No. 1 through 9.

Each line currently has its own control center, though the control centers are divided because Seoul’s subway lines are run by different operators. To carry out the plan, the mayor emphasized financial support from the central government. “It will cost a lot to replace all the old trains,” Park said. “We desperately need the central government’s support.”


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