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Additional Subway Woes

Posted March. 03, 2003 22:36,   


Amid the intensified uneasiness of residents due to the Daegu subway fire, several subway accidents have occurred in Seoul and Busan.

In Seoul, power to a train went out last Friday and one train was brought to a sudden stop on Monday. In Busan, a fire broke out on a subway train on Sunday.

The fire on the Busan subway was extinguished within five minutes but a train coming from the opposite tracks entered the station having not been notified of the fire. Exactly the same situation occurred in the Daegu subway fire revealing subway officials` lack of remedial measures. In Seoul, train No. 5029 of the Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corp. (SMRT) heading to Kimpo Airport station on line 5 from Kaehwasan station suddenly stopped due to the activation of the emergency brake at 7:10 a.m. on Monday. About 200 passengers were locked for 14 minutes in the underground tunnel 20m from Kaehwasan station.

An official from the SMRT explained that the computer-activated emergency brake was activated due to abnormal voltage in the master controller for accelerator and brakes. He also added that if the emergency brakes did not work, it might have caused a more serious accident.

Passengers in the train felt restless because the subway doors did not open. They could not get off until train No. 5551, the closest train behind, pushed it to Kimpo Airport station. Many passengers in Kaewhasan station reportedly demanded refunds as the trains were delayed.

Also, train No. 3099 of the SMRT caught fire when it arrived at Hakyoul station on line 3 from Daechi station at 9:38 a.m. on the same day. The fire started in the operations room door across from the engine room and spewed out thick clouds of smoke. 100 passengers were able to escape from the train car uninjured.

Seoul Metropolitan Subway presumed the cause of the fire to be a cigarette dropped by a passenger because newspapers and other trash near the operations room doors were burnt. However, it does not rule out the possibility that the motor controlling the door, which is older than 20 years, overheated.

The fire on the Busan Subway occurred at 11:15 p.m. on Sunday, when a fire broke out at the end of the tunnel leading to Munhyun station on the B3 floor platform of Somyun station, on line 2, presumably due to a short circuit. When the fire started, 100 passengers waiting on the platform were able to escape. Four subway workers had noticed it on CCTV and extinguished it within 5 minutes.

However, the fire was neither reported to the control room, nor the passengers warned for a full five minutes. Mr. Lee (33), the engine driver, allegedly contacted the control room to check if there was a fire drill at the station after he saw smoke fill the station.

Busan Urban Transit Authority insisted there was nothing wrong because the fire was extinguished and was reported to the control room according to operations rules.

Most of the Seoul subway incidents on lines 1 to 4 last year were found to be the result of poor maintenance: 80% of delays over 10 minutes were due to poor maintenance or careless operation of trains, considered avoidable. 70% of subway problems on lines 5 to 8 were due to faulty train maintenance, 10% due to signal equipment, 10% to track problems and 10% to others. As subway lines 5 to 8 are controlled by computer, three incidents were due to computer malfunctions.