By Kim Tae-jong
A KTX-Sancheon bullet train bound for Masan, South Gyeongsang Province departing from Seoul abruptly stopped for nearly an hour, Saturday, due to a malfunction in its braking system, officials said.
This is the sixth breakdown in May alone and 29th for this year involving KTX trains. Passengers are voicing growing concerns over the safety of bullet train operations.
The Sancheon came to an unscheduled halt near Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang Province at 3:13 p.m. and the stoppage continued for 52 minutes until mechanics finished a safety check on the system.
“The train stopped due to brake system malfunctions. We have yet to figure out the exact cause of the breakdown,” a Korail official said.
No casualties were reported, but the halt delayed 12 south-bound trains for an hour and caused inconvenience for hundreds of passengers.
Those in the delayed trains posted complaints on social networking sites.
“I’m now in the train. It’s so irritating. It’s not a bullet train but a breakdown train,” an Internet user with the ID Doa said on his Twitter account.
Before the halt, the Korea Railroad Corp. (Korail) announced Thursday it would reduce operations of its high-speed trains for comprehensive safety checks to address the growing concern. It also ordered the train’s manufacturer Hyundai Rotem to recall all of the 19 Sancheon trains, in operation for thorough inspections.
Despite the move, many passengers say they will boycott the accident-prone KTX bullet trains.
“I often took a KTX train before, but now I’m considering driving my car,” an office worker Gang Sung-jin said.
There have been some 40 minor and major accidents involving the bullet trains since March, 2010.
One major accident took place on Feb. 11 as a Sancheon train derailed near Gwangmyeong Station, south of Seoul due to a combination of human error, including the loss of a nut in a device that controls track movement for trains.
The train stopped in a tunnel about 300 meters from the station after the rear six cars out of 10 jumped the rails. One passenger sustained a minor injury among 147 onboard, and all had to return to the station by foot.