City government looks to solve line No. 9 chaos

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City government looks to solve line No. 9 chaos

Yeomchang Station, perhaps the most crowded station on Seoul’s subway line No. 9, was full of people on Monday morning, the first weekday rush hour since the line extended further east over the weekend.

But the situation on the platform was starkly different depending on the type of train that arrived at the station. At 7:14 a.m., an all-stop train came by, though hardly anyone boarded and the lines outside mostly didn’t budge.

But just four minutes later, when the rapid train arrived, passengers began to push and elbow their way onto the train, causing many in the crowd to gasp and scream.

“I can save some time if I take rapid trains in the morning,” said one passenger, Lee Jin-seong, 52. “But it’s difficult to even turn around when a rapid train is about to arrive.”

In an attempt to resolve these overwhelming traffic issues, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is considering solely employing all-stop trains in the mornings on subway line No. 9 - a desperate measure that was floated after safety concerns were raised.

“We are considering provisionally removing rapid trains between 7 and 9 a.m. until next year because too many passengers are crowding into the rapid trains and there are safety issues,” said an official from the city government’s City Transportation Headquarters.

The rapid trains on subway line No. 9, which opened in 2009, stop solely at highly populated stations like Gimpo International Airport, Express Bus Terminal and Yeouido.

It takes about 57 minutes to get from Gimpo International Airport to the Express Bus Terminal Station on an all-stop train, which stops at all 21 stations, while the rapid train takes only 28 minutes and stops at seven stations.

However, the data proves that travelers prefer rapid trains.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government, rapid trains carry 2.7 times the passengers of all-stop trains.

When lawmaker Kim Sang-hee, a member of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, analyzed the most crowded trains in the capital, four of the top 10 were rapid trains.

The train departing from Gimpo International Airport Station at 7:50 a.m. saw the most traffic, carrying 237 percent of its capacity after leaving Yeomchang Station and heading to Dangsan Station. At over 225 percent capacity, riders reported they experienced difficulty breathing.

However, even if the local government decides to do away with rapid trains in the mornings, the change would take time, with auxiliary systems like traffic signs needing to be adjusted and the new system tested.

“Removing rapid trains is like giving up on the biggest strength of subway line No. 9,” said Lee Seung-jae, a transportation engineering professor at the University of Seoul. “The authorities should approach the problem carefully.”

BY KANG KI-HEON, KIM JI-EUN [kim.bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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