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The Horse was Stolen, but the Barn Has Yet to Close

Posted January. 04, 2005 22:23,   


Most of the Major Projects are “Underway”-

About half of the fire prevention and safety measures for Seoul subways have been completed; 51 out of 112 projects for Lines 1 to 4 and 43 of 88 projects for Lines 5 to 8.

However, most of the completed projects are about strengthening and promoting public safety education, nurturing experts within the subway authorities, establishing discipline among staff and educating responsibility of staff, which do not require a budget or which are designed to confirm and check the existing equipments.

Only the purchase of anti-smoke masks for subway Lines 1 to 4 and the installment of firefighting flashlights have been performed among projects that require a budget to place new equipment in subway stations or inside the trains.

Projects to replace inflammable interior fixtures such as seats with noninflammable ones or to improve the communication system between the train and control center, which enables passengers in the running train to communicate with the control center, are either underway or have yet to start.

Only 726 out of 3,508 cars of the Seoul subway have changed their interior materials.

In particular, subway Lines 1 to 4 have yet to start on 21 projects, including installment of CCTVs to enable drivers to check platforms while driving and replacement of interior materials of Lines 3 and 4 Chungmuro station.

Situations are no different in the provincial areas. Busan subways show a less than 30 percent replacement rate of interior materials, while Daegu subways finished the implementation of 39 out of 75 safety improvement measures. Subways began operation in Gwangju in April of last year, but 12 out of 52 cars are equipped with incombustible interior materials.

Incheon subway authorities installed CCTVs to check platforms and emergency evacuation passages by the end of last year with 430 million won, but they have not even thought of starting other projects.

The Reason for Slow Implementation of Safety Measures-

A tight budget is considered as the major reason for such slow implementation. The problem shown in the arson attack on subway Line 7 on January 3 was ineffective communication among the central control center-individual stations-engine room, which has been pointed out so far. The “improvement project on train wireless communications system” has been suspended due to a lack of budget.

The Seoul Metropolitan Subway Corporation said that the fire prevention and safety projects would require an estimated 1.0353 trillion won by 2007 and that the corporation would be able to secure a mere 735 billion won, including government assistance and profits from management improvement and new business.

An official at the corporation said that the budget is too tight, as the corporation should replace old trains and equipments other than the safety projects with the 735 billion won.

Another reason for the slow action is that subway operation should continue as improvement on stations and trains are being done.

An official at Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation said that the staff can work on changing structures for only about three hours a day, from 1:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m., even though such work is in high demand.