Seoul City on Wednesday announced a plan to build nine new light rail transit routes over the next 10 years to reduce blind spots in its subway and bus networks.
Officials said the new passenger train corridors on a combined 85.41 kilometers of routes will help improve public transport and reduce citizens’ reliance on roads.
“Sticking to the rail-centered public transport policy, the city will restructure the system over the next 10 years, allowing citizens to get to any subway station within 10 minutes,” Mayor Park Won-soon said.
After a one-year intensive study, the city government revised its 2008 light railway plan by increasing the number of lines from seven to nine and readjusting the locations to improve citizens’ convenience, economic viability and operational efficiency.
The new transit lines will be laid largely in northeastern and southwestern parts and connected with existing subways and Metrorail, simplifying transition and shortening travel time, officials said.
The city also decided to extend the current Subway Line 9.
The total cost of the project is estimated at 8.553 trillion won ($7.69 billion). The city plans to inject 3.055 trillion won, and attract 1.172 trillion won from the central government, 3.949 trillion from the private sector and 376.6 billion won from rail operators.
But critics question the feasibility of the plan, which would force the city government to provide huge subsidies to operators of routes with relatively fewer passengers.
The city government itself expects to pay 4.5 billion won to 8 billion won per course to make up the companies’ losses.
Further fanning skepticism, the city said it will set the fare at the same levels as that of the current subway lines, while potential operators are demanding higher rates.
The city is also expected to run into obstacles in getting approval from the central government, which is said to be concerned about the possible financial burden.
The metropolitan government reportedly has yet to coordinate with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.
Seoul officials said it will submit detailed proposals to the ministry in September after concluding an evaluation of the environmental effects and sustainability and public hearings by next month.
The city emphasized that the new lines will benefit its public transport system, increasing the coverage rate from the current 64 percent to 75 percent. About 38 percent of areas in the city are deemed to have poor public transport systems, officials noted.
The city also expects the light rail systems to trim carbon emissions, congestion and traffic-related costs. Traffic jams were estimated to cost the city 8 trillion won in 2011.
By Lee Hyun-jeong (firstname.lastname@example.org)