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Prolonged rail strike takes toll on logistics

Prolonged rail strike takes toll on logistics

Average operation rate of freight trains expected to fall to 40 percent

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Published : 2013-12-16 19:45
Updated : 2013-12-16 19:45

With the state-run rail operator’s labor union and management showing no signs of compromise, the prolonged railway strike has started to crimp the country’s logistics stream.

On Monday, KORAIL adjusted the frequency of intracity trains down to 92 percent of its conventional level, except during rush hour, according to officials.

The frequency of the inter-city bullet train KTX would also be adjusted from 24 times per day to 16 per day, starting from Tuesday.

“The accumulated fatigue of the substitute workers may cause safety accidents,” said an official of the rail operator.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport nevertheless said that the minimal number of trains would be maintained during peak commuting hours.

But greater obstacles are expected for the transportation of key industrial materials as the average operation rate of freight trains is set to fall to 40 percent of normal frequency this week.

The daily amount of coal delivered from Gangwon Province to the metropolitan region nosedived from 22,000 tons to 9,000 tons over the past week, according to railway officials.

Cement makers in the nation’s central Chungcheong provinces are also expected to run out of raw materials and fuel by the end of the week.

“Empty freight cars are stationed all around the Incheon Port, with coal and cement waiting to be loaded,” said an official of the Incheon Port Authority.

The Contractors Association of Korea also expressed concerns that the longer the strike lasts, the greater the financial damages will be for the local construction industry.

According to the Yeosu Gwangyang Port Authority, the daily cargo volume in the region fell by 45 percent, striking a blow on the inland transportation of imported goods.

In order to meet the import and export timeline, distributors are choosing to deliver domestic consuming items such as automobile parts and chemical raw materials by land, and use the limited rail routes to transport coal, oil and cement, officials explained.

The rail union launched its strike last Monday in protest of KORAIL’s unyielding decision to establish a separate company to run a new bullet train route connecting southern Seoul to the provinces.

The union, together with opposition political parties and liberal civic groups, referred to the plan as KORAIL’s first step in privatizing the state-run railway.

The ministry and the railway company, however, denied such claims, claiming that the new company would be affiliated to KORAIL and that the union was using it as an excuse to push ahead with the strike.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)

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