Reinforcing safety on the subway

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Reinforcing safety on the subway

Seoul subway lines No. 1 to 4 have been found to be inadequate when it comes to being able to withstand the hazards presented by earthquakes. But despite those findings, the Seoul city government and the subway operator have delayed renovations, citing a lack of funds.

In a report complying with an inquiry by Representative Lee No-keun, a member of the National Assembly’s Land, Infrastructure and Transport Committee, the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Seoul Metro said about 36 percent of the 146.8 kilometers (91 miles) that the four lines cover across the capital were found to be “seriously weak” against seismic hazards. The findings were the result of seismic resilience tests conducted on subway lines in the capital between 2009 and 2013.

Seoul Metro began renovating vulnerable underground areas last year, but so far the work has only been completed on a 3.3-kilometer section. The project has so far cost 47 billion won ($46 million). An additional 83.6 billion is needed to complete the work by 2016.

But Seoul Metro and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport are wasting their time at the expense of public safety by wrangling over funding. The city subway operator claims it cannot go on with the construction, which would cost 322 billion won, without assistance from the central government. It does little to come up with more innovative ideas to rationalize management to ensure the safety of passengers.

The ministry maintains that it cannot directly subsidize the public enterprise that falls under the jurisdiction of the Seoul Metropolitan Government. It is avoiding the problem with the excuse that its request for 10 billion won to subsidize the Seoul subway renovation project has been turned down by the Ministry of Finance and Strategy and the National Assembly. What it comes down to is that bureaucrats are neglecting public safety infrastructure problems with timeworn excuses about money and jurisdiction.

The first four lines carry four million commuters a day and are central to the capital’s public transportation. Management and operation must prioritize public safety. Negligent safety preparedness and wrangling over funding and jurisdiction are not just consequences of chronic red tape, but a threat to civilian lives. The central and local government must change their perspectives on public safety.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 14, Page 30
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