Shorter Working Week to Cut Bus Routes in Suburbia

  • By Choi Won-woo

    May 13, 2019 12:48

    City bus operators are set to adopt the maximum 52-hour working week this July, which is expected to result in closures or shortened routes in the suburbs.

    Gyeonggi Province officials recently compared the business plans submitted by bus operators province-wide ahead of the reduced working week. They show that bus operators propose to shut down 49 out of 2,185 routes and shorten another 317. On some 653 routes the frequency of services will be reduced.

    That means almost half of all bus routes in Gyeonggi Province will be affected. A Gyeonggi official said, "According to the plans, almost 10 percent of the 9,714 buses running at present will stop. We will try to convince bus operators, but without financial assistance from the central government, large-scale reductions will be inevitable."

    Bus operators will have to hire more drivers to meet the working-hour cap, but they claim they do not have the money and must shut down marginal routes.

    According to provincial officials, some 10 percent of the routes, or 222, will have to start later in the day or stop earlier at night. Overlapping routes will also be shut down.

    A Suwon city official said, "Drivers are required to rest for 30 minutes after driving four hours, but this rule is hard to keep when it takes more than four hours to complete one round trip."

    Meanwhile, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and Labor Ministry in a meeting on Sunday discussed how to deal with an impending strike by city bus drivers set to start on Wednesday.

    The strike was largely expected when the government did not exclude city bus drivers from the lines of work that could be exempt from the shorter working week.

    The government is considering raising bus fares by W200 to finance W250 billion in subsidies while allocating more subsidies from the state employment fund.

    But the measure could face a public backlash. Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki meets with bus trade unions on Monday.

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