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Posted : 2012-02-02 16:52
Updated : 2012-02-02 16:52

Commuters’ nightmare!


Commuters pack a platform at Seoul Station in central Seoul, Thursday, after a subway train broke down and halted operations on line No. 1 for nearly five hours during morning rush hour. / Korea Times photo by Kim Joo-sung

Korail hit for breakdown of subway cars during morning rush hour

By Lee Hyo-sik, Yi Whan-woo

A Seoul subway train broke down early Thursday morning when temperatures fell to minus 17 degrees Celsius, creating chaos for hundreds of thousands of commuters in and around the capital.

The subsequent derailment of the troubled train added to commuters’ woes, forcing them to scramble for alternative means of transport. Many of them lodged protests against the subway operator as they shivered amid the lowest temperature in 55 years, and were late for work.

According to Seoul Metro and Korail, a line No. 1 subway train bound for Cheongnyangni Station in northeastern Seoul from Cheonan Station in South Chungcheong Province came to a sudden stop at Seoul Station at 7:22 a.m. due to a mechanical failure.

It stopped for 40 minutes, forcing follow-up trains to be delayed. As a result, thousands of passengers were stuck inside the cars for nearly an hour.

Seoul Metro has overall control of subway lines Nos. 1-4, but both it and Korail operate subway cars. The troubled train was operated and maintained by the latter.

At 8:08 a.m., the operation of subway line No.1 resumed as another train pushed the malfunctioning one forward. However, the train derailed 30 minutes later at Jongno 5-ga Station on its way to a base station in northern Seoul, paralyzing subway operations again.

No passengers sustained injuries due to the incident but subway services between Hoegi and Yongsan stations were suspended for hours, causing a great deal of inconvenience to commuters living north of the Han River.

“Following the derailment, we immediately mobilized a group of mechanics to fix the problem. Around 11:50 a.m., they put the derailed subway cars back onto the rails,” a Korail official said. “The troubled train was then on its way to the base station. As of noon, all subway operations on line No. 1 returned to normal.”

He said the initial breakdown was likely caused by an electrical malfunction due to the cold weather. “We are doing everything we can to find out exactly what caused the breakdown. We will take all possible measures to prevent something like this from happening again.”

Breakdown comes with fare rise

In a separate incident, another train came to a sudden halt at Guro Station also on line No. 1, due to faulty power lines, suspending both north and south bound trains. But trains began operating normally two hours later after the completion of repair work.

However, tens of thousands of commuters suffered a great deal of inconvenience during the morning rush hour as a result of the breakdowns. Some waited for hours while enduring the record-low temperature. Others looked for alternative means of transport, such as buses and taxis.

The majority of passengers on line No. 1 were late for work Thursday.

“I was trapped in an extremely crowded subway car for almost an hour. The train operators just told us to wait little bit. It was like my worst nightmare turned into reality,” a 37-year-old salaried worker said at Jongno 3-ga station. “I was late for work by at least an hour. I heard Seoul City plans to raise fares by 150 won. But who wants to pay more for a subway ride like this.”

At Jongno 3-ga station, Seoul Metro employees were busy informing passengers of the suspension of subway operations. But it seemed that users paid little attention. They put up notices on the walls, columns and everywhere they could to let subway users know the measures being taken by the operator.

Several employees shouted, “We regret there will be no train services between Seoul Station and Cheongnyangni Station.”

“What is all this about?” a middle-aged man shouted at one of the employees. “You people were supposed to make an announcement when I entered the station,” he said.

This is not the first time for line No. 1 subway trains to stop operating in winter. On Jan. 16, 2011, a train bound for Uijeongbu Station broke down at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies Station in northern Seoul.

A year earlier, another train also stopped at the same station, due to engine failure.

Korail said line No. 1 trains that operate on rails built above ground are more prone to a range of failures in winter due to weather conditions, compared with those operating underground.
관련 한글 기사

`아수라장' 1호선…항의·환불 요구 빗발

"안내방송 제때 안해"…헛걸음한 시민 많아

2일 오전 지하철 1호선의 전동차 고장으로 출근길 대혼란이 빚어지면서 시민의 항의가 빗발쳤고 환불을 요구하는 소동도 곳곳에서 벌어졌다.

운행 중단 소식을 미리 듣지 못하고 지하철역을 찾은 시민은 역무원을 붙잡고 상황을 물어보거나 스마트폰으로 뉴스를 확인하는 등 다른 교통수단을 알아보려고 바쁘게 움직였다.

일부 승객은 허탈한 표정으로 지하철 노선도를 바라보다가 안내방송이 나오면 귀를 기울이기도 했다.

대전에서 KTX열차를 타고 온 권종순(55)씨는 "사업 때문에 종로에 가야 되는데 바쁜 와중에 전동차가 멈춰 서서 환불을 받으러 왔다. 이렇게 추운 날씨에 운행이 안되는 게 말이 되느냐"며 분통을 터뜨렸다.

지하철역에는 승객들을 위한 안내방송이 계속 나왔지만 승객들은 새로운 내용 없이 같은 내용만 반복하는 안내방송에 우왕좌왕하는 모습을 보였다.

특히 지방에서 KTX를 타고 서울에 도착한 승객들은 서울지리에 익숙하지 않아 새로운 교통수단을 알아보는데 애를 먹었다.

서울역을 찾은 한 승객은 "'대단히 죄송합니다'라는 안내방송만 되풀이하고 사고차량의 후속 조치의 안내는 전혀 없다"며 "승객의 불안한 마음을 안정시키기 위해 대처 방안에 대한 안내방송을 해야 된다"고 말했다.

대구에서 올라온 정홍기(60)씨는 "회기역에 있는 경희대병원에 진료를 받으러 올라왔는데 운행이 안 되면 어떻게 가야 하는지 알려줘야지 무조건 안된다고만 하면 어떻게하느냐"며 지하철 출입구를 가로막는 직원에게 항의했다.

부천발 구로행 급행열차에서 내린 이부자(70ㆍ여)씨는 "타고 오는 도중에 안내방송이 없어서 어떻게 환승을 해야 할지 어떤 교통수단을 이용해야 할지 알 수가 없었다"며 "지하철이 평소에는 좋은 교통수단이지만 비상시 대처하는 모습이 실망스럽고 답답하다"고 말했다.

서울역에서 만난 대학생 안재욱(20)씨는 "친구들과 청량리에서 10시 17분 열차를 타고 안동으로 여행을 가려고 했는데 열차가 안 와서 여행을 가지 못할까 걱정이다"며 황급히 택시를 타러 뛰어갔다.

시청역을 찾은 곽경자(66ㆍ여)씨는 "종로5가 사무실로 출근해야 하는데 뉴스를 못 봐서 지하철 운행이 중단된 것을 몰랐다"며 "회사에 전화를 해보니 일찍 나온 1명만 있고 아무도 출근을 못 했다고 한다"고 말했다.

일용직 청소노동자 노모(53ㆍ여)씨는 "원래 9시에 일을 시작해야 하는데 회사에 차가 늦어서 못 간다고 했더니 오늘 나오지 않아도 된다고 하더라. 다른 사람을 쓴 게 아닌가 싶다"며 하루 일감을 놓친 것에 대해 불만을 토로했다.

지하철공사는 승객들에게 승차권을 환불해줬지만 환불받으려는 승객들의 줄이 길게 늘어서자 이미 출근길에 늦은 시민들은 조바심을 냈다.

시청역에서 만난 이윤형(68)씨는 "환불은 너무 당연한 일인데 사람이 해주는 것이기 때문에 너무 시간이 오래 걸린다"며 "기다리다가 그냥 가는 사람도 있을테고 날씨가 너무 추워서 나도 환불받지 않고 가고 싶은 마음이 생긴다"고 말했다.

여행을 위해 한국을 찾았다가 갑자기 중단된 열차 운행 때문에 방문 일정에 차질이 생긴 외국인도 있었다.

홍콩에서 온 워터막(29)씨는 "종각에 있는 호텔로 이동하고 있는데 한 정거장을 앞두고 지하철이 멈춰 서 택시를 타야 한다. 영어를 할 수 있는 택시기사를 만나기가 쉽지 않아서 걱정된다"고 말했다. (연합뉴스)


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