Many underground facilities are buried deep underground in downtown Seoul, including water and sewage pipes, power lines, gas pipes, and the subway. The total length of such facilities is 52,697 km, which amounts to 1.3 times the circumference of the earth. The problem is that the management agencies for these underground facilities are varied.
Different management agencies have dug into the soil to bury each facility, and safety control was conducted by different institutions and companies. This made it difficult to properly grasp the current statuses of the facilities.
Seoul will extensively repair this safety control system for underground facilities. The paradigm will be shifted to one in which the city will become the “control tower,” taking charge of the integrated management of the safety of underground facilities, and each management agency of communications, gas, electricity, and more will form a permanent consultative group where they participate together.
The city explained that the purpose of the measure is to prevent the recurrence of problems due to the deterioration and overpopulation of underground facilities, such as the fire in the cable tunnel in Ahyeon-dong last year and the recent stale tap water in Mullae-dong, as well as to minimize the risk of accidents because of massive underground development, such as GTX.
To this end, Mayor Park Won-soon signed an MOU with the management agencies of major underground facilities at in conference room on the third floor of Seoul City Hall on the 25th. Together with Mayor Park, five institutions participated in the agreement, including ▴ KT (CEO Hwang Chang-gyu), ▴ Korea Electric Power Corporation (CEO Kim Jong-gap) ▴ Korea Gas Corporation (President Chae Hee-bong), ▴ K-water (Vice President Gwak Su-dong), and ▴ Korea District Heating Corporation (Vice President Lee Gyeong-sil).
On the same day, Seoul also announced for the first time the “measure for integrated safety management of underground facilities in Seoul,” which stresses on integrated and proactive safety management of underground facilities, and declared that the city will invest more than KRW 2.708 trillion by 2023. 10 tasks will be conducted in three fields, including ▴ the construction of an integrated underground safety system, ▴ proactive and systematic safety control, and ▴ the development of a prevention system with smart technologies.
① Launching the “council for the safety control of underground facilities in Seoul” (in the second half of 2019)
As over half of the underground facilities in Seoul are managed by institutions other than the city of Seoul, organic action is required in case of emergencies. To this end, the council for the safety control of underground facilities in Seoul will be launched in the second half of 2019. The Vice-Mayor Ⅱ for Administrative Affairs of Seoul will become the chairperson of the council and the directors of the branches of the related institutions, including KT, Korea Electric Power Corporation, Korea Gas Corporation, Korea District Heating Corporation, K-water, Korea Electrical Safety Corporation, and Korea Gas Safety Corporation, will be members of the council.
② Strengthening safety checks and conducting joint investigations
A joint inspection team for the safety control of underground facilities will be launched to conduct the safety checks of water and sewage pipes, power lines, cables, and gas and heat pipes, as well as look into whether the rules for maintenance are being followed. In addition, for prevention of subsidence, the roads managed by Seoul will be divided into five zones and joint investigations will be carried out for 1,222 km (178 routes) of these roads over the next five years by 2022.
③ Improving response to complex disasters with regular joint training, etc.
The “joint training,” in which related institutions will participate, will be held regularly in order to be responsive to complex disasters caused by accidents in underground facilities. The “initial response manual” that is used in emergencies will be supplemented and improved through the addition of detailed contents, such as sharing real-time emergency situations via SNS and dispatching liaison officers to the emergency sites.
④ Reviewing the introduction of common ducts in the downtown area, establishment of a basic plan for common ducts in Seoul
The introduction of common ducts in the downtown area will be reviewed. A common duct is a tunnel that can accommodate power lines, cables, and water and sewage pipes altogether. With these points included, the “basic plan for common ducts in Seoul” will be prepared by 2020. Currently, the common duct research team, whose members include the researchers from KAIST, is developing the technology for small sectional, tunnel-type common ducts. Through the basic plan, the introduction of small common ducts associated with the light rail project will be reviewed.
⑤ Construction of the underground facilities safety control data analysis system
By connecting the underground space data system and the safety control data system that have been operated separately, the underground facilities safety control data analysis system will be constructed in 2020, making it possible to respond effectively to disasters.
⑥ Early investment in and repair of deteriorated and defective underground facilities
By 2023, a budget of over KRW 2.469 trillion will be invested early for the repair of the underground facilities that are rapidly deteriorating, such as the old water and sewage pipes and the old heat pipes that were mainly built between the 1970s and the 1980s.
⑦ Extension of the lives of underground facilities through proactive management focusing on the life spans of underground facilities
The management of the facilities that has focused on maintenance and following-up control will now be shifted to a management for the middle and long term, the proactive response in preparation for the future. By the end of this year, a complete inspection will be conducted as to the history of maintenance and the function of each infrastructure to set a comprehensive management plan by 2020, and prepare for the mid-and long-term investment plan and ways to secure finances.
⑧ Preparation of safety guidelines for underground development, including a minimization of underground water leakage during the excavation work period
As large-scale underground development is being contemplated, including GTX and city railroad network, the safety guidelines for underground development will be prepared for safe underground development and systematic management of underground facilities. By 2020, institutional and technical comprehensive measures will be established to minimize underground water spillage in underground construction sites. The related information to prevent damage to geothermal heat pipes will be systematically controlled as well.
⑨ Development of an infrastructure deterioration prediction system using big data analysis
The prediction system to calculate the optimal point to repair and reinforce the facilities will be developed by the end of this year. The system will build a database out of detailed profiles of the underground facilities while predicting and analyzing their changes in status and maintenance expenses using big data technologies.
⑩ Establishment of a smart management system using IoT, AI, etc.
A safety check using the smart technologies including IoT and AI will overcome the limitations of human labor forces and get rid of management blind spots. For example, the track driving robot that will be established in the common duct in Eunpyeong-gu will travel along the 2.4-km rail attached to the ceiling of the duct. The observation device will ride the rail 24/7 to collect information on the status of the duct, such as changes in heat, temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen, then sending the information to the central server at the headquarters.
Mayor Park Won-soon said, “An accident in an underground facility can become the cause of a complex disaster, so strict prevention and prompt response is extremely important. As more than half of the underground facilities are managed by institutions other than the city of Seoul, the city will now become the control tower for integrated management and reinforce underground safety by cooperating with each institution.”