Friday, August 26, 2011

Home-Made High-Speed Train Forced to Stop Again

A home-made high-speed train stopped abruptly on its way from Seoul to Masan Monday due to unspecified but perfectly safe technical problems, according to its operator, the government-owned Korea Railroad Corporation (Korail).

The home-made train, known as the KTX-Sancheon or 'Thousand Acids', was constructed last year by 58 year-old Kim in the back yard of his house in the Myeong-dong district of Seoul. Kim has now built ten trains and has orders for ten more, which he is aiming to complete as soon as he can collect enough scrap metal from the streets of Seoul to construct them.

The KTX-Sancheon was designed to be the successor to the inferior first generation of Korean high-speed trains, which was based on a design by French company Alstom. These so-called 'KTX-I' bullet-trains were always problematic since parts had to be imported into Korea from France, due to the absurd and unfounded fear that if they were licensed for manufacturing in Korea the design would be stolen by Korean companies. But Kim says he felt Korea's national spirit was being damaged by allowing French trains free passage across Korea, which is why he set out to invent the parts necessary to create an entirely Korean high-speed train, not based on copied French parts at all, which he has never seen.

Korail says it is mystified as to why the trains keep suddenly stopping, not stopping, derailing, smoking, and rocking violently from side-to-side, but while there are now ten different KTX-Sancheon trains in operation which have experienced ten different problems, the single commonality in every accident is the track – based on a British design - which may be experiencing some issues due to the strain put on it by Korea's four seasons. Korail is keen to stress that these entirely domestic issues should not have any bearing on the export sales of the KTX-Sancheon it is currently trying to make.

The KTX-Sancheon can reach speeds of 330 km/h, but Kim overcame the technical issue of how to use brakes from Hyundai Accent sedans to slow the high-speed train down, in what is regarded as a triumph of domestic engineering and an improvement on the earlier inferior French design, which was not copied. While many have hailed Korea's home-made high-speed train as a paradigm-shift, some have criticized Kim's decision to place a steering wheel in the KTX-Sancheon, with suspicions mounting that it may have contributed to at least one of the train's derailments.

In recent months there has been growing disquiet with Korea's domestically designed products, with problems reported with home-made tanks, howitzers, rifles, submarines, and nuclear power plants.

Related Links
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