Skytrain Extension News 2001- 2004

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Skytrain Taksin Extension - 300 million baht loss due to Samak's poor planning - translated and summarized from Sawatdee Krungthep, November 19-25, 2004
The Taksin extension plan proposed by Governor Samak has been poorly executed. The construction has gone from Taksin-Phetkasem to Klongdan. The proposed nearest BTS station is 400 meter far away from Taksin Center to prevent a blindspot. This is because the proposed BTS route and Mae Klong Railway do not have a perpendicular intersection. The proposed Taksin extension has already been built along Kalapapruek Road (the road parallel with Phaseecharoen canal).
If BMA has to correct this kind of problem, the Taksin extension has to be 800 meters longer and land expropriation is a must, adding more cost to BMA and BTS.
BMA said If OTP really want BTS to interchange with the Maeklong Railway at Taksin Center, OTP must give some loan to BMA to pay for the extra bills and BMA needs an extra 300 million baht to construct a depot so that the that the pillars along Kalapaphruek are not wasted.
Notes: Former Governor Samak likely came up with his own plan without listening or consulting with OTP and TEAM Consultant (the consultants hired by OTP to handle the massive extension of the system) due to his well-known autocratic nature. Many of older generation have such an autocratic nature though.

Skytrain spurns nationalization: will finance extensions and smart card system on its own - Prachachat Turakij, November 22, 2004
BTS urging Premier Thaksin to order BMA to help BTS to realize the Taksin Extension - translated and summarized from Thaipost, November 18, 2004
BTS is urging the government to help for the Taksin extension. Mr. Super K (Kasem Jatikawanit) has sent a letter to Maew (Premier Thaksin) to use an executive order to allow BMA to help BTS to construct the Taksin extension to Thonburi. BTS is appealing to the government to see the virtue of approving the construction of such a project. BTS is also going to call bidding for smart card system for a joint ticket system by the end of this month.
Mr Kasem Jatikawanit sent the letter to Premier Thaksin on August 27, 2004 to allow the construction of Taksin Extension across Chao Phraya and BMA said they are ready to help BTS to complete this extension. However, PM Thaksin has to issue an Executive Order to allow BMA and BTSC to start the Taksin extension project immediately--if so it can be done in nine months.
He says the nationalization project will not help the people at all. There are much faster, easier and better ways to expand mass transit projects without applying nationalization project. However he will not go into detail until Premier Thaksin has invited him to discuss the plan.
BTS is going to call bidding for a 300-million baht smart card system to be usable in both BTS Skytrain and MRTA subway. The smart card system will be ready in July 2005, but BTS has to change the ticket collecting system, the software to calculate the ticket prices and the changes on ticket system from magnetic cards to contactless smart cards.
Notes: Since Mr. Super K and his wife have connections with Loxley and Kasikorn Thai Bank (both companies are staunch supporters of the Democrats), it would not be surprising that Premier Thaksin and Suriya would obstruct the plan for Skytrain extensions while they are trying to claim credit for themselves through the mass transit nationalization.

BMA wants to rescue the Skytrain extensions - translated and summarized from Thairath, November 8, 2004
BMA already has the winners for bidding on the Taksin and Samrong Skytrain extensions, but they cannot declare the winners until the conditions on investment are modified from 100% private to a public-private joint venture with a contribution from BMA. It would not be a good deal if BMA has to wait for another 6 years for this.
The government failed to nationalize BTS even though MOTC insists that they are going to do so for cheap joint tickets with the Subway. However, BMA said BTS could implement the joint ticket system by having the extensions to get more passengers. Furthermore, BMA said they will help BTS to implement the extension from Taksin Intersection to Bang Wah (4.3 km) with the interchange to the Subway and the Phaholyothin extension (12 km) from Mochit to Saphan Mai (12 km) to tap more passengers.
Premier Thaksin is going to make an official opening of the Park and Ride at Bangsue (2000 cars) and Mochit (600 cars) with a price tag of 40 million baht and the areas for parking BMTA buses and taxis. This work was done Army engineers.

Government to punish Skytrain: no extensions, no connections to other systems - October 28, 2004
[2Bangkok.com has been reporting on the stalled Skytrain extensions since 2001 when the Thai-language papers were calling the Taksin extension (above) the "new Hopewell." The English-language papers have remained largely silent.]

Suriya playing a dirty trick by isolating BTSC and forcing them not to interchange with other systems as the way to bankrupt BTS - translated and summarized from Prachachart Thirakij, October 25-28, 2004
Suriya has swallowed his pledge to extend the Skytrain by telling the press that: "we are no longer interested in purchasing BTSC stock. We'll force BTSC to readjust the Skytrain routes so they do not connect with other mass transit systems!"
This is due to the unsuccessful deal to negotiate with BTSC to sell their stock to the government.
Furthermore, MOTC will force BTSC to reroute so that the new line will not be able to interchange with other mass transit systems--a punishing measure for BTSC.
For the case of BMCL nationalization, BMCL insists that the price of 3 baht/share is a good deal. Otherwise, they will have to negotiate with MOTC first. However, MRTA and MOTC insist that the first 25% of BMCL stock will be sold at par (1 baht/share - 2.4 billion baht) while the rest would be sold at 1.5-2 baht/share.
Notes: Comments about Suriya's statements are here.

Routing dispute dogs extension of Skytrain - Bangkok Post, November 10, 2004
[It is interesting that the English-language papers continue to report on the Skytrain extensions as if nothing is wrong. This article even claims the Taksin extension is "almost completed." The reality is that the government has blocked the extensions since 2001.]
...The BMA is building the extension straight above Taksin-Phetkasem road, with about 4.5 kilometres of the 6.7km-long extension having been built.
But the OTP wants about 800 metres of the extension to be a curve instead of a straight line so that it will directly connect with a new southern mass transit hub planned at the corner of the intersection.
The present site of the construction is 400 metres away from the hub. Deputy Bangkok governor Samart Ratchapolsitte yesterday opposed the proposed change, saying that in order to make the curve the BMA would have to demolish what has already been constructed. Also, the curve could pose safety problems for the train and land expropriation would be necessary, he said...

PM promises to extend the skytrain to city's far western outskirts - Bangkok Post, March 8, 2004
Just to point out how fluid the mass transit route lines are and how tied the routes are to politics, the Post mentions this campaign promise: ...Addressing an audience of about 2,000 villagers in Bang Len district, Nakhon Pathom, Mr Thaksin said he would see to it that the railway was extended out from the Thon Buri side of the capital to Nakhon Pathom, about 50km away. "There will be a skytrain service between Nakhon Pathom and Bangkok. That'll make traveling much faster,'' the Thai Rak Thai leader said...

The delayed Skytrain extension will cause cost overruns - translated and summarized from Dailynews, February 27, 2004
Even though BMA called a bid on October 3, 2003, BMA cannot declare the winner even after March 3, 2004 since the government refuses to change from 100% private investment rule to allow BMA to participate on the project. Furthermore, the government is going to nationalize the project. BMA will face a cost overrun if they insist in dealing with the project. The central government will have to pay 50 billion baht more to nationalize if BMA insists to handle the construction [of the Skytrain extensions].
Nevertheless, BMA agrees with the government that system integration is a good idea but the delay of the project will cause too much suffering--from cost overruns, more cars roaming the roads (at 800 more a day and 250,000 cars a year) and the need more roads to accommodate them which is a big economic waste. System integration is good but the central government should never delay the [Skytrain extension] projects. Now, BMA has sent the letter to Traffic Policy Office about this issue.

Once again: NO Skytrain extensions for the foreseeable future - translated and summarized from Dailynews, February 24, 2004
[Ed.: 2Bangkok.com has been reporting this story since 2002 and there was another flurry of reports on the Skytrain extension halt in January of this year. However, the English-language press has always been silent on the subject.]
Premier Thaksin has asked BTSC and BMA to negotiate with creditors first before approving the fund for the Samrong and Taksin Extensions. This really angers Governor Samak since the government has acted in a way contrary to their claims--dragging the project down while asking to push the project forward.
The Traffic Committee also asked BMA to come up with a business plan for the Samrong and Taksin Extensions to be submitted the committee before the next meeting and BTSC must make a final settlement on debts with creditors before receiving central government funds for the projects.
This central government response causes a lot of anger from Governor Samak since BMA has submitted business plans three times to the Ministry of Interior and another time to OCMLT and got rejected every time.
BTSC has told BMA about the debt restructure plan as follows
1. Cutting down the principle and interest of the debt by 10 billion baht
2. Turning debts into equities by 14 billion baht
3. Extend the 14 billion baht debt to be paid in 18 years from the current 12 years and cut down the registered capital to 6.68 billion baht
The three factors of the plan will enable to the handling of the Taksin extension immediately and creditors have no objection for this plan.
For the Samrong extension, BTSC is planning to offer an IPO as well as sell more stocks to creditors which could be done before BMA finishes the infrastructure--which will take another six months. Governor Samak said "Waiting another six months is too long! These two sections could be done by calling the contractors to deal with project at the same time while dealing with the creditors! The government is dragging the project down while claiming that they are speeding up the project..."
The Traffic Policy Office Director said "BMA has not submitted the business plan yet and the BMA agenda hasn't been discussed yet." Minister Suriya also said he has no clue as to whether BMA is going to deal with this issue and thus more negotiation is needed.
Notes: Bangkok Biznews editors feel there must be some political motivation from TRT to come up with such a plan since this plan will take at least 6 years to become a reality....thus forcing Thai voters to vote for Thai Rak Thai whether they like TRT candidates or not. This policy also strengthens centralization, not decentralization as TRT claimed.


More on the halt to Skytrain extensions - January 14, 2004

On January 9, 2Bangkok.com broke the story (in English) that the Skytrain extensions were halted. It had long been clear that in the current political landscape the extensions would never be permitted and 2B had been predicting this for several years. Interestingly enough, no mention of this controversy ever appeared in the English-language press. Now here is another report on the halt from a pro-government paper. The English-language press remains silent...

BTS debacles causing delay on extension projects - Creditors want someone to replace Khiree causing the government to suspend Skytrain extensions - translated and summarized from Dailynews, January 13, 2004
After a discussion between BMA Governor and Premier Thaksin on the extensions, Premier Thaksin agrees to carry a burden of 65% public investment while BMA handles 35% of public investment - after agreeing to allow public investment on the extension project as a substitute for 100% private investment.
However, the government decided to temporarily suspend the Samrong and Taksin extension until either BTSC could come up with a debt restructure which pleases the creditors or the creditors could find a representative to replace Mr. Khiree. Mr. Khiree will fight at all costs to keep BTSC in his portfolio.
So far, Mr. Anat Abhabhirom does not know about this internal conflict within BTSC since he did not work in the debt restructure section of BTSC. He only knows that BTSC want to trim debts by 15% from three major creditors (KfW, World Bank, SCB).

BTS denies any change in the Board of Directors and claims creditors are happy with BTSC performance - translated and summarized from Dailynews, January 14, 2004
After hearing the comment from Governor Samak that the delays on the construction of the Skytrain extension are due the plan to change the Board of Directors and a yet-to-be approved plan to allow public investment on the project [see yesterday's news], Mr. Khiree said there must be some misunderstanding since BTSC has not changed any of the Board of Directors [Chairman of the Board Kasem Jatikawanit, Head Advisor Anat Abhabhirom, General Manager Paul Malcolm], and BTSC is negotiating with creditors about the plan to write off 15% of debts which will be done in early February 2004. So far the negotiation is going very well. Efficiency is improving due to good teamwork with very satisfying results. Daily passengers has reached 350,000. The number will increase after the subway becomes a reality due to synergy. And the company is making money--700 million baht profit--so there is no need to change the Board.
Notes: If they show this good result, BTSC will be targeted for takeover.


Earlier: No Skytrain extensions for foreseeable future
- January 9, 2004
2Bangkok.com has been reporting for several years about the political maneuverings that prevent the Skytrain extensions from being implemented. Here is yet another article about the subject you will not find in English (translated and summarized from Dailynews, January 6, 2004):
BTSC Skytrain extensions are put on hold for the foreseeable future. Even though the subcommittee has already finished the assessment on bidding for Skytrain extensions, they decided not to declare the results for another two months--until they receive the approval from the cabinet about the plan to allow BMA to make a joint venture with BTSC. If the cabinet approval is not delivered by after March 3, 2004, BMA will delay the results further.
Notes: The government is likely to delay the BTSC extension project until Thai Rak Thai wins the election for BMA governor and BMA council.

Taksin extension delayed to 2005 at the earliest - translated and summarized from Dailynews, December 17, 2003
...BTSC is investing 1.1 billion baht on the Taksin extension (2.2 km), but the opening date has been delayed to 2005 due to a snafu on the contractor selection for the construction of Charone Nakhorn and Taksin Station. Even though this section will need a fare hike, BTSC needs to negotiate with BMA for the new terms and wait until the stations are done before handling over the signals and rolling stock. After Taksin extension is done and opened in 2005, it will boost the number of passengers by 2-30,000 passengers a day.

BMA explains delay in Skytrain bidding process - translated and summarized from Dailynews, December 4, 2003
The Director of BMA Traffic Bureau said BMA decided to delay the bidding decision on both Skytrain extensions to wait and see if the cabinet has approved the plan to change the investment term from 100% private sector to be public sector investment on infrastructure and private investment on concession in the same way as the MRTA subway. After finishing the assessment, BMA will declare the winners of bidding even though the cabinet has not approved the revision yet.
On November 7, 2001, BMA asked the Ministry of Interior about the extension plan for the Taksin extension and Samrong extension that needs public investment since 100% private investment has discouraged the private sector, including BTSC, from investing in this project.
BTSC then asked the cabinet to allow BMA to deal with infrastructure on May 22, 2002 and the cabinet acknowledged the proposal on September 17, 2002. Even though BMA has submitted the plan to the cabinet via the Ministry of Interior, the cabinet has not made a decision yet.
Furthermore, Premier Thaksin has asked BMA to speed up the Skytrain extension projects at all cost and now the Budget Bureau has approved 740 million baht on BMA civil works, thus BMA decided to call a new bid. However, the agreement is not binding to the contractors yet since the contracts have not been signed by the cabinet yet.
Thus, BMA explains the rush to build before getting revised cabinet approval claiming a speedy response to Premier Thaksin and not violating bidding regulations.
Notes: Bangkokians feel very frustrated by how the Skytrain extensions have become a political football. They want to get it done by now even by questionable means to get around the cabinet approvals.

Skytrain extensions delayed by one month - translated and summarized from Dailynews, November 3, 2003
Even though BMA has called a bid they have not decided the winners for all three contracts yet. However, at least two contractors will be disqualified by technical problems due to stringent criteria.
Notes: It seems to me that Stecon, ITD and CH. Kanrchang will be qualified while others get barred from such business.
BTS needs a big boost to encourage more passengers to use the new Orange line to reach at least 400,000 passengers a day and the Purple Line to reach at least 600,000 passengers a day.
I hope that the 2nd phase after 2010 will come up with some modifications to fit into the local demands (Lad Phrao, Sri Nakharin, Muangthong Thani - Pakkret, Makkasan, Thepharak, etc.).
Earlier articles:
Fears over Skytrain bidding - November 2, 2003
Who will win contracts for Skytrain extensions and who will complain - translated and summarized from Prachachart Thurakij, Vol. 27, No. 3521


(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)

Connected! - August 30, 2003
The Skytrain bridge over the Chao Phraya is connected. See earlier photos below on this page.
The reasons behind Thaksin's halt to Skytrain extensions - translated and summarized from Prachachart Thurakij, Vol 27 No 3515, September 18, 2003
Both the Taksin and Samrong extension of BTSC are not going to have a smooth ride even though they are planned to be opened by the end of 2004 and by the end of 2006 respectively. Even though Premier Thaksin has proclaimed an edict to push the project forward, the debt burden of BTSC is the big stumbling block which compelled Thaksin to postpone BTSC extensions until BTSC can make a debt settlement with the creditors since he fears that BTSC would end up like Hopewell. According to the 30 year contract, BMA will have to allow BTSC to get the concession of the extension lines first. However, BTSC and BMA can not come up with an agreement.
There is a common hypothesis that if BTSC extends the track to Thonburi, Samut Prakarn and Donmuang (especially the first two extensions), BTSC will be able to double and triple the revenue and have enough to pay all current debts as well as the loan for extensions since there are many potential passengers in the Bangkok suburbs.
Therefore, the extension plans have been included in the new rehabilitation plan for BTSC submitted to the Bankruptcy Court - compelling the creditors to finance the extensions as well as the facilities to allow convenient interchanges (see also:
Skytrain in bankruptcy court - Prachachart Thurakij, Vol 27 No 3509, August 28, 2003).
Recently, BTSC has make a preliminary proposal to BMA about the revenue sharing scheme of 26 billion baht in the future - 10% revenue from the 6th to 10th year, 15% for the 11th-15th year and 20% for the 16th to 20th year. BTSC agrees to cap the maximum ticket price for a single trip to 40 Baht to boost use of the system to reach a target of 500,000-600,000 passengers a day (the same level as Manila LRT Line).
According to the plan in 2006, the number of passengers will reach 490,000 passengers a day from the current 330,000-350,000 passengers a day.
BTSC plans to invest 12 billion Baht to improve the system in Sukhumvit line by purchasing 10 sets of 3-car rolling stock from Siemens. However, BMA needs to invest 9.5 billion Baht for Samrong and BTSC needs to restructure the debts.
After Premier Thaksin halted the Samrong extension as well as the second phase of the Taksin extension, BTSC needs to wait and see how BMA will respond. Fortunately, the construction of the Taksin extension (1st phase - 2 stations) could be started immediately since the BTSC board has approved 1 billion baht investment to install signals, TVMs, power supplies while BTSC can use 5-6 sets of spare rolling stock to run the system after the opening of the system by the end of 2004.
For the case of the Samrong extension, BTSC Board has to make an assessment on investment and wait until BMA can get a contractor after October 2003.
If the creditors do not approve the investment plan, BTSC needs to ask for a new foreign partner (e.g. Shanghai Metro) to enable BTSC to open the Samrong extension by the end of 2006. For the commercialization, BTSC is not sure if they are going to allow VGI Global to run the commercialization of the station or the new one.
Since BTSC does not work on structures as they have done before, BTSC is able to freeze the ticket prices to the old 10-40 baht. Investing only the signals, systems, and power supplies will boost the revenue by 600,000-700,000 baht a day.
The conflicts between BTSC and creditors are not the only roadblocks to the extension progress since there are also the continuing and bitter conflicts between BMA (Traffic Bureau) and MOTC (Traffic Policy and Planning Office). BMA and MOTC are in the power struggle to control the mass transit system in Bangkok and vicinity - forcing Premier Thaksin to halt BTSC extensions. However, Governor Samak is trying get a resolution to enable BTSC to extend to the Bangkok suburbs while finding a settlement with MOTC before the conflicts become unresolvable.
BMA will call a new bid on October 3 and negotiate with creditors about BTSC's debts to enable BTSC to extend in all directions.
Traffic Policy Office also wants to get up a central office to handle all the mass transit lines - the existing Skytrain and upcoming Subway. However, people want more convenient transportation to relieve their suffering instead of power struggles between agencies.

Samak insisting NO delay for Samrong extension - translated and summarized from Manager Daily - September 11, 2003
The same day other papers report the delay, Manager Daily quotes another source denying it:
Governor Samak insists that BMA did not halt the BTSC Samrong Extension. They just worry about the creditors who refuse to allow BTSC to run the Samrong extension. BMA will call the bid for Samrong Extension on October 4.
After Premier Thaksin asked to halt the Samrong Extension on September 10, Governor Samak told e corespondents that "BMA will push the Samrong extension forward at all costs." The bidding on October 4, 2003 will go ahead without being halted.
Samak said Premier Thaksin just worries that creditors will prohibit BTSC to run the extension unless the creditor has been paid. Governor Samak will explain to Premier Thaksin that BMA is going to deal with three major creditors in the next few days. The negotiations will have no detrimental effects on the bidding process.
The central government will invest 65% while BMA will invest 35%. Thus the government feels worried that BTSC will not be able to run the services of the Samrong extension after December 2006. However, BMA believes that they can negotiate with creditors and explain that the extension will enable BTSC to pick up more passengers and boost revenue to pay debts.
Notes: The halt of the Samrong extension may have political implications since Samut Prakarn people still vote for candidates under the umbrella of the Assawahem Family (long-standing influential political power in the area - some say the 'mafia' of Samut Prakarn) instead of candidates from the Thai Rak Thai party. Therefore, Premier Thaksin may by punishing Samut Prakan by halting the Samrong extension.

Skytrain Sukhumvit extension halted - Bangkok Post, September 11, 2003
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has put the brakes on plans to extend the skytrain's Sukhumvit line from Onnuj to Samrong.
Mr Thaksin said yesterday he had ordered city hall not to award further concessions to skytrain operator Bangkok Transit System Co (BTSC), until the firm had secured financial support from its creditors.
"At present, the creditors have no confidence in the debtor. So I told city hall to discuss with both parties how to proceed," he said. "The question is whether the debt will be converted into equity."

More on the extensions - Bangkok Post, September 9, 2003
He said BTSC's investment in the two lines was estimated at 1.6 billion baht and five billion baht, respectively. At present, BTSC's skytrain serves almost 300,000 passengers a day on average. Passenger volumes reach 330,000 daily on weekdays but drop to 270,000 on Saturday and 180,000 on Sunday.
This resulted in a daily income of over six million baht. BTSC spends half the income on its operations and pays the rest as interest to its creditors. No money is left for it to pay the total principal of about 36 billion baht.

Skytrain extensions and the local papers - August 27, 2003
We had a big response to our comparison of the Bangkok Post and The Nation yesterday. Notes: Bangkok Post has almost always been a pro-government newspaper since the early days (1946). However, The Nation considers itself an "Independent Newspaper," and is almost always in conflict with the government. Furthermore, The Nation seems to be aligned with the Democrat Party even though the Nation did criticize the Democrats when they were running the government. However, the criticism of the Democrats never reaches the venomous level meted out by the Manager Daily.

Here is more on the vague, tangled story of what is happening with the Skytrain extensions:
BTSC to invest in the Taksin Extension - translated and summarized from Thairath, August 25, 2003
Anat Abhabhirom told the press that the BTSC Board had a resolution on August 21, 2003 that BTSC is going to invest in the electric and mechanic part as well as the service for the Taksin extension... For the case of the Samrong extension, BTSC will wait until BMA comes up with the contractors so that BTSC can make a decision on how to deal with this extension.

BTSC is investing 1.7 billion baht in Taksin Extension - translated and summarized from Thairath, August 26, 2003
Anat Abhabhirom told the press that the BTSC Board has discussed with Siemens about the investment plan for the Taksin extension which can be separated into four sections as follows:
1. Signals to control the trains
2. Power line to feed the system
3. Ticket vending machines and computers
4. Communication system
The investment funds are coming from monthly interest payment to the three main creditors: Siam Commercial Bank, KfW, and IFC. BTSC is asking the three creditors to cut down the monthly payments by 100 million baht and the representatives from the three major creditors (which were present at the meeting) have approved the plan. BTSC will deliver the investment plan to Governor Samak later.

BTS urged to clear local debts first - Bangkok Post, August 27, 2003
"We really care about the skytrain's extension, as it not only means future business growth for the operator but also will benefit commuters," said Andres Klocke, head of KfW's Southeast Asia office. "But it is unfair (for us) to put in new money while the old money has yet to be settled."

A tale of two newspapers: Skytrain vendetta - August 26, 2003
Usually 2Bangkok.com contrasts the English language news with the more complete and candid Thai-language news, but today there is wide gulf between the two English-language papers that demonstrates their respective slants. On one side there is the Bangkok Post's usual "government happy news" and on the other, the dire pronouncements of The Nation. Both are based on the same comments by Anat Arbhabhirama. Since 2002 2Bangkok.com has been reporting on the political vendettas that have been plaguing all mass transit expansion in Thailand (Ch. Karnchang PCL, the company behind the Skytrain, wholeheartedly supports the opposition Democrat Party). These issues still have not shown up in the English-language press...

Skytrain to cross river in mid-2004 - Bangkok Post, August 26, 2003
Despite delays in its 33-billion-baht debt-restructuring programme, Bangkok Mass Transit System Co (BTS) is pushing ahead with plans to extend its skytrain system across the Chao Phraya River, from the Sathon bridge to Taksin road in Thon Buri. Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction Plc has nearly completed construction of the elevated structure to Taksin Road, leaving only track-laying and station construction along the route to be done.

SKYTRAIN: No funds forthcoming - The Nation, August 26, 2003
The proposed expansion of the Silom skytrain line across the Chao Phya River has run into a snag after the Bangkok Mass Transit System Plc failed to secure loans from its backers...
BTS needs the support of existing backers because, according to a clause in the contract, it cannot turn to other backers to finance the extension. BTS, which is already saddled with debt of around Bt16 billion, also has to confront political hurdles, both at national and gubernatorial levels, because the project involves regulatory approval and investment by the BMA.
...Sources said the Thaksin government might take the matter into his own hands and prevent the BTS from going ahead with the extension project. BTS also has tentative plans to extend the Onnuj line 9km to Samrong and Samut Prakan.


(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)

The Skytrain bridge over the Chao Phraya River is almost connected - August 7, 2003
Note the figure hanging on a small platform from the bridge on the right.

NO Charoen Nakhon Skytrain Station on the Taksin extension line - July 21, 2003
There will be no Charoen Nakhon Skytrain station (station S7 at the foot of Taksin Bridge not far from Charoen Nakhon). We get more email on this subject than any other. Many have assumed that the S7 station would be built, but it has always been a future station. This is in keeping with the plan to turn the ferry service into a major mass transit artery and make people connect to ferries at Taksin Station. Most condos and apartments in the Charoen Nakhon area will still tell you a station is being built. However, the first station will be S8-Krung Thonburi--about 400-500 meters before the Taksin intersection. Also: "Taksin" refers to King Taksin--one of the first Thai Kings of the modern era--"Thaksin Shinawatra" is the Prime Minister.




(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)

The Skytrain extension bridge over the Chao Pharya River
- June 14, 2003
The bridging between the Taksin Bridges nears completion. When will it be done? Thairath Daily reported (on April 28, 2003): The contractor STECON is working on the construction of tracks and pillars for Taksin Extension across the Chao Phraya River which is now 87% done. After finishing the track construction, the concrete track across Chao Phraya will be installed and then clearing all details to be done by the end of May 2003--well ahead of the deadline of January 14, 2004. The preliminary study on track laying and construction of two stations (Charoen Nakhon Intersection and Taksin Intersection) will be submitted to BMA by the end of October 2003. After getting approval from BMA Board, the installation of tracks and stations should be started and completed within 1 year, ready for service in December 5, 2004. So even though the tracks are almost done, the two stations are still a long way off. There will be no station directly on the other side of the river--the first one will be at Charoen Nakhon Intersection.

Status of Taksin and Samrong Skytrain extensions - Thairath Daily, translated and summarized, April 28, 2003
Status of the Taksin extension
The contractor STECON is working on the construction of tracks and pillars for Taksin Extension across the Chao Phraya River which is now 87% Done. After finishing the track construction, the concrete track across Chao Phraya will be installed and then clearing all details to be done by the end of May 2003--well ahead of the deadline of January 14, 2004. The preliminary study on track laying and construction of two stations (Charoen Nakhon Intersection and Taksin Intersection) will be submitted to BMA by the end of October 2003. After getting approval from BMA Board, the installation of tracks and stations should be started and completed within 1 year, ready for service in December 5, 2004.
Status of the Samrong extension
For the case of the Samrong extension, it is in the preliminary detail design period--the Environmental Impact Study will be done by the end of December 2003. It will take six months to construct the new infrastructure (telephone poles, water pipes, underground telephone lines) along the inbound side of Sukhumvit Road before removing the old infrastructure from the construction areas (the middle of Sukhumvit Road). The areas with all infrastructure removed will be have foundation pillars laid first. The construction of the Samrong extension will be done and open for service in Early 2006.

Notes: After monitoring the BTS Webboard, I found several opinions from those who live on the Thonburi side of Bangkok that "BTS Skytrain should extend to Pin Klao area (or at least the Tha Phra area) after finishing the Taksin Extension." I agree with them on this point. However, it will be a very delicate issue since the track must pass through Rattanakosin Island before going across Chao Phraya (at Sanam Luang) to Pin Klao Intersection and probably ending up at the Southern Bus Terminal (Talingchan) with a feeder bus to Talingchan Junction (Talingchan Junction is not so busy as Bangsue junction since it is in a blind spot area - not at a main road as Bangsue Junction).
A cabinet resolution stated that all railed mass transit systems going through Rattanakosin Island must be underground. Unless BTSC can lease drilling heads and get foreign contractor to help Italian Thai to handle the job, it will be very hard if not impossible to implement Skytrain extension projects through Rattanakosin Island. The extension on the Thonburi side after Taksin extension will go to Bang Wah first. If the new road (Rattnathibet - Phetkasem - a road that intersects the road from Tiwanon - Kanchanaphisek via Rama 5 Bridge) is done, BTSC might consider extending along this road, but it would need to turn right at Borm Ratchachonnanee Road to go to Pinklao. This will avoid going through Rattanakosin Island, but be a much longer route with less density.


(Photo: Chad Blair)

Skytrain Bridge Progress - February 20, 2003
Chad Blair sent in this photo (left) of the Skytrain bridge being constructed between the lanes of the Taksin Bridge.

Building the Skytrain bridge across the Chao Phraya - Thairath, September 2, 2002
Construction of the Skytrain bridge (right) between the Saphan Taksin Bridge pillars. In the foreground is the new Sathorn Pier.



(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)

Troubles remain at BTS - February 14, 2003
Notes: The central government should have a plan to bail BTS (the company that runs the Skytrain) out of its financial mess. German creditors are sharpening their knifes to deal with the BTSC Board since creditors have still not accepted the financial restructuring yet. The German and local creditors said they would like Mr. Khiree to release more shares to pay for the 1 billion Euros in debt.
UPDATE - A schedule for the extension
Translated and summarized from Bangkok Biznew and Dailynews, December 5, 2002: Governor Samak also told the press that even though BMA asked STECON to readjust Phaseecharoen Elevated Way to become the Taksin extension, there will be no station near Charoen Nakorn since he considers that those who live along Charoen Nakhon can rely on ferries and feeder bus service (the stations on the Taksin extension will be at Krung Thonburi Road and another 200 meters further from the Taksin intersection). After Taksin the intersection, BMA will construct a ramp allowing the Skytrain to go down to go to Machai along Mahachai Railway in the future. However, BMA needs money from the central government to implement the ramp. The construction of the rails and station will be finished in mid 2003 and then BTSC will install the system which will be ready by the end of 2003 or early 2004. The extension to Phetkasem will be done later
.

Political vendettas doom Skytrain extensions - translated and summarized from Matichon, September 17, 2002
The Ministry of the Interior previously submitted a proposal from BMA about plans for Skytrain extensions which stated that BMA and the public sector will handle civil works while BTSC or the private sector will handle additional rolling stock and services. The private sector would receive an investment privilege from BOI in the same way as BTSC did originally.
However, the Project Investment Committee had turned down the proposal by emphasizing that investment by BMA and the public sector is in violation of Article 2.2 of the Cabinet Resolution of February 29, 2000. Article 2.2 states that: "According to the Concession between BMA and BTSC, the concession holder MUST make a 100% investment on the initial project and extensions."
The only possible ways to get around this problem are:
1) Easier credit, public underwriting for new loans, and financial stimulation of BTSC to render 100% private investment possible
2) A new cabinet resolution to override the previous resolution of February 29, 2002 so as to allow BMA and public sector to handle the project
Commentary by Ron: This development is seen to effectively prevent Skytrain extensions...
Commentary by Wisarut: The political vendetta between Ch. Karnchang PCL (a company behind the Skytrain) and the government has put many critical projects on hold: the S1 expressway, consultants for the second airport (to finish the terminal design), and even BMCL concessions for the subway. Ch. Karnchang PCL wholeheartedly supports the Democrat Party (political archrivals of the Thai Rak Thai Party).
Commentary by Ron: Here is an article from Prachacart Thurakij from about a year and a half ago that hints on the same frustrations over Skytrain extensions. These political vendettas are well-reported in the Thai-language press, but are not much covered in the English-language press. The Bangkok Post story about the rejection of Skytrain extensions only mentioned that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration [was] told to come up with a more concrete feasibility study...
Commentary by Wisarut: Several ministers in the Thaksin cabinet have automobiles as a family business (Minister Suriya is a good example). Even worse, some of them (the Premier included) have a prejudice against mass transit systems. The freezing of the railway link between downtown Bangkok and NBIA is a good example.
Commentary by Ron: The railway to the new airport was killed last week: Thaksin told the press that NBIA does not need to rush on the construction of a mass transit system linking NBIA with downtown BKK due to the fact that there will be an 8-lane highway with no traffic lights.
(Note: This was written in 2002--since then the railway project has been resurrected as the Airport Link project)
Skytrain Insider Info: Taksin Station Fate - 07:37, July 19, 2002
From an anonymous BTS insider: I have just confirmed that the Saphan Taksin station will not be torn down, and that the space issue will be dealt with quite simply: The two rails will converge into one, and the opposite-moving trains will take turns using it. Just like a single-lane car bridge with a signal ligh
t. Delays will be minimal, under half a minute probably. So Saphan Taksin station is safe--it's an elegant solution that should make everyone happy. And a "rumor only:" ...new skybridges are being planned for Asoke station to connect to Robinson and the Sheraton, probably early 2003.
November, 2001
A trio of articles on the ongoing saga of turning the Phaseecharoen Way to a Skytrain route
BMA Council detects a lie from the Traffic and Transportation Bureau concerning the Phaseecharoen Elevated Way/Skytrain Extension
Dailynews and Matichon Daily, November 29, 2001
Comment from Thairath Daily - November 24, 2001: Hopewell 2?
by "Mr. Pingpong Head" (a columnist in Bangkok Traffic section)
BMA inspecting Phaseecharone Elevated Way for readjustment to a Skytrain route
Matichon Daily, November 22, 2001

September 28, 2001
Wesley Hsu pointed that out that the current construction of the Phaseecharoen Elevated Way project looks suspiciously similar to the existing BTS tracks. 2Bangkok.com checked and found that the underside of the bridging does look EXACTLY like the rest of the Skytrain bridging. It is all being actively constructed by SinoThai. We called BTS to get the real story. BTS Public Relations Department: "We have no information on Skytrain extensions. You'll have to ask BMA." BMA Transportation Department: Presently "it is still intended to be a road only for buses and HOVs (High Official Vehicles)." It could become a Skytrain extension in the future, but "not yet." (Usually HOV refers to High Occupancy Vehicles--we do not know why they contend it is for "High Official Vehicles.') As it appears the Phaseecharoen Elevated Way is already being constructed in a way identical to the rest of the Skytrain, we would would not be surprised to hear that a deal was reached declaring it a new extension.
May, 2001
2Bangkok correspondent Wisarut writes: I have seen the pillars in Thonburi side when I was at Suphakharn Building. It was for the Taksin-Phetkasem Road (an elevated road project). The road from Ratchadaphisek to Phetkasem Road is opened for traffic on April 28. However, the pillars left over near the foot of Taksin Bridge will be used for Taksin (Skytrain) extension after trasfering the ownership from Dept. Civil Works to BMA.
Pre May 2001
Are the new supports being erected on the Thonburi side of the Sathorn bridge for the Skytrain? Is this the actual beginning of the Taksin extension?
This is the Phaseecharoen Elevated Way project (Taksin to Wat Ang kaeo - 6.1 km) initiated during the term of former Bangkok governor Bhichit Rattakul to serve high-occupancy vehicles such as passenger buses and cars with at least three people. BMA has tentatively approved using this project for the Skytrain extension, but many hurdles remain.
We have articles on this project here and here's the same story from two different newspapers (On the left is the English-language Bangkok Post version and on the right, the Thai-Language Dailynews version. The Bangkok Post version makes it seam like everything is simple and settled. The Dailynews version gives much more detail on the remaining conflicts).

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