South Korea: Government, KORAIL probe cause of derailed KTX

SEOUL (The Korea Herald/ANN) -​ Transport Ministry and KORAIL officials say railroad switch system error likely caused the recent derailment of a KTX train.

A railroad switch system error likely caused the recent derailment of a KTX train, a joint team of the Transport Ministry and KORAIL officials said Sunday.

The tentative conclusion came after the team inspected the derailment site Saturday. According to the authorities, the KORAIL control center detected an error sign in the railroad switch system around the South Gangneung intersection at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, right before the derailment took place.

The switch system was assumed to have malfunctioned due to the drop in temperature, KORAIL CEO Oh Young-sik said.

The ministry and authorities said further investigation is necessary to find the exact cause of the accident.

On Saturday morning, a KTX bullet train bound for Seoul derailed shortly after departing from Gangnueng with 198 passengers abroad. No casualties were reported, but 15 passengers were injured in the accident.

KORAIL has deployed about 300 personnel and large cranes to lift and remove the derailed locomotive and passenger cars. However, the recovery work is facing difficulties due to the freezing weather conditions.

Operations of the KTX between Gangneung and Jinbu stopped over the weekend, but were likely be fixed by early Monday. Authorities operated 45 buses to transport passengers between Gangneung and Jinbu.

“The ministry has asked the Board of Audit and Inspection to inspect KORAIL on its poor maintenance and response to accidents, but such an accident happened again,” Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Kim Hyun-mee said during her visit to the accident site Sunday.

“There can be no excuses. (The authorities) should find out the exact cause of the accident and take actions to prevent reoccurrence,” Kim said, urging the people in charge to take responsibility for the derailment.

The minister also apologized to the public who are concerned over the recent KTX accidents.

Since Nov. 19, a total of 10 KORAIL train-related accidents have taken place in three weeks. On Nov. 20, 27 KTX trains were delayed or canceled due to a sudden power outage, leaving passengers stuck in passenger cars for three hours.

According to Rep. Hong Chul-ho, a total of 661 KORAIL train-related accidents have occurred since 2013, including 109 accidents involving the KTX bullet train.

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon visited the headquarters of KORAIL in Daejeon on Wednesday to call for the improvement of trains’ safety.

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