Controversy over ‘preferential treatment’ for the restructuring of the Ui Shinseol Light Railway

Criticism is rising in relation to the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s decision to invest 610 billion won in funds to avoid the bankruptcy of the Ui New Light Rail Transit, which was promoted as a privately funded project. It is argued that the Seoul Metropolitan Government must operate the railroad directly because railroad safety cannot be ensured only by sharing part of the financial cost.

The public transport union held a press conference in front of the Seoul City Hall in Jung-gu, Seoul on the morning of the 18th and said, “The Seoul Metropolitan Government should publicize and operate the Ui New Light Railroad, which is operated by multi-level consignment, to secure the safety.” The city of Seoul is considering a plan to compensate 610 billion won, including 350 billion won in financial borrowings and 260 billion won in alternative investment costs for vehicle maintenance and repair, to the Ui New Light Railway, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. The Seoul Metropolitan Government recently reached an agreement with the implementing company, the Ui Shinseol Light Railroad, on the ‘restructuring of the Ui Shinseol Line’. An official agreement is expected to be signed in June.

Participants in the press conference argued that such restructuring would only give preference to private companies, but would not have the effect of improving light rail operation and ensuring safety. Jeon Yu-deok, head of the union’s Wooi Shinseol Light Rail Transit branch, said, “If the business is restructured, the entire income will be used for operating expenses. It will come to an end,” he said. According to the union, about half of the field workers of the Ui Shinseol Light Railroad are irregular workers, and the average monthly salary is only 2.1 million won. Long-term tenure is difficult, manpower is not recruited, and some stations are operated as unmanned stations, making them vulnerable to safety. The union proposed to the Seoul Metropolitan Government to promote public ownership.

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