Metros to receive laser upgrades

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Metros to receive laser upgrades

In order to prevent another death like that of the teenage mechanic at the Guui Station in May, the Seoul city government promised to spend about 29.5 billion won ($25.5 million) by 2018 to install laser sensors on all subway station platform doors.

The 19-year-old mechanic, surnamed Kim, was hit by an incoming train at Guui Station in eastern Seoul on May 28 while working on a sensor located on the railroad side of a platform door.

Workers need to hang on the railroad-side of the platform doors to repair these sensors as they are located on either side of the doors, so in order to repair one that is not above an emergency door, a worker needs to step inside the emergency door and walk on the railroad-side to reach it.

“As one of the immediate measures to prevent more accidents,” Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said, “the city government will spend some 6 billion won this year to install laser sensors at 53 stations in Seoul.”

The mayor said all stations in Seoul will have laser sensors by 2018.

Laser sensors need to be installed on only one side of the platform doors, so repair workers simply need to open an emergency door and work on the sensor while standing on the platforms.

While the currently used “area sensors” have a 50-percent failure rate, the highest among the different types of platform door sensors, they make up some 80 percent of the sensors used in subway stations in Seoul. One reason for their widespread use is that they are cheap. Area sensors are one-fifth the cost of laser-style sensors.

“I can also say now,” Park added, “that in operations run by the city government, jobs closely related to the safety of citizens and workers are no longer subcontracted.”

Subcontracting jobs generally cuts costs for companies but takes the management of workers, including measures for their safety, out of the companies’ control.

“We have hired on some 60 Eunsung PSD employees, and about 90 employees of Seoul Metro will be joining them in July and August to ensure the safety of these workers,” said Yun Jun-byeong, head of City Transportation Headquarters.

Yun added that a total of about 600 positions formerly subcontracted by Seoul Metro and another subway operator, Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit, will be directly managed by the companies.

Since the death of the teenage mechanic, Park had promised to root out corruption in Seoul Metro. Investigations since the mechanic’s death revealed that Seoul Metro forced its subcontractors to hire Seoul Metro’s retired officials, many in their 50s and 60s, as well as those without proper mechanics skills.

“I stand by my former statement,” said Park. “No former Seoul Metro official will be rehired for maintenance work to be directly managed by Seoul Metro.”

Former Seoul Metro officials hired as subcontractors received higher payment compared to regular workers and were promised to be rehired in the case of bankruptcy.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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