A series of 36 accidents and breakdowns that have beset the KTX bullet train this year were probably caused by poor quality parts and poor maintenance, according to analysis by experts for the Chosun Ilbo.
Of 21 accidents and breakdowns that troubled KTX-Sancheon trains this year, 19 were caused by manufacturing defects, KORAIL speculated. The problems were everywhere, including four breakdowns in the motor blocks and power distribution systems, three in operating, braking and air piping systems, and two in wiring connections. The KTX-Sancheon trains were introduced with great fanfare in March last year.
An executive with Hyundai Rotem, the manufacturer of the KTX-Sancheon, claimed, "Any country inevitably faces some breakdowns during the initial stabilization stage" after putting the bullet train on the tracks.
Exerts meanwhile say KORAIL has trouble maintaining the ordinary KTX trains properly because they are 10 years old or older.
Of the 15 breakdowns old KTX trains suffered this year, seven were in key components such as motor blocks and power distribution systems, and three in the braking systems, with others occurring in cooling fans and doors. Most of the 46 old KTX trains have run more than 3 million km so far, over 465,000 km per year on average, according to KORAIL.
Dr. Kim Yeon-kyu with the Korea Transport Institute said, "After having run without stopping for 10 years, bullet trains should be disassembled and each component checked for an intensive overhaul. Faulty components should be replaced. It's doubtful if KORAIL ensures maintenance in compliance with the safety regulations."
But a KORAIL spokesman claimed the problem has been exaggerated. "Please understand that KTX trains may look as if they're troubled by many accidents and breakdowns because we stop them to check for safety every now and then if there is even the tiniest problem," he said.
Dr. Kim Ki-hwan of the Korea Railroad Research Institute urged an extensive overhaul of the KTX trains, saying "More serious accidents could happen if there's no sufficient maintenance of all trains."