Master Plan News January-August 2003

MASTER PLAN NEWS 2003 January-August

This section contains news of the Master Plan, overall Bangkok development, the Bangkok Governor's development plans, and articles about interconnecting mass transit projects.

Mass Transit News main page

B900bn for rail in next five years - Bangkok Post, August 29, 2003
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has plans to spend 900 billion baht on rail networks nationwide over the next five years... The prime minister wants 500 billion baht to go on railway extensions in Bangkok and the other 400 billion baht to double railway tracks from Bangkok to all regions... Reviving elevated trains under the old Hopewell project is also part of the plan. The railway changes in Bangkok were previously scheduled for completion in 2021... "I don't want the investment to reach 900 billion baht. It must be lower eventually," Mr Thaksin said. Interested investors, excessive liquidity at financial institutions and financial support from the state should ensure a 2007 finish.
The Nation has basically the exact story, but adds: "We just came up with a rough Bt900 billion investment figure. In fact, with modern technology and lower construction costs, we should use less money than this budget," Thaksin said.
Financing sources include the Energy Conservation Fund, the Oil Fund, plus national budget and car registration fees. Private firms will be asked to participate in the mega-project by contributing their own resources and borrowings...
Energy Minister Prommin Lertsuridej said energy demand in relation to economic growth should fall significantly over the decade between 2007 and 2017, during which time energy savings of Bt3.1 trillion would be realised from the improved mass-transport system.
The country is now heavily dependent on petroleum imports for domestic energy needs. Foreign oil accounts for 12 per cent of all imports, making the country vulnerable to oil shocks.

Roundtable discussion on solutions to Bangkok traffic - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Siamturakij, No. 452, August 10-16, 2003

[This is a good overview of the wish-lists of various government departments. Discuss this in our forum]

The number of cars is increasing due to the economic recovery--817 new cars a days up from 590 new cars a day in 1997, and 200 cars a day during the recession. However, new roads have increased 1% during the same period despite of the fact that 70% of the transportation budget have gone into road construction and maintenance. 10% is for mass transit and the other 20% for administration cost. No wonder that the mass transit systems are in such a messy situation.

The Traffic Policy Office reported:
1) New expressways for northwest part of Bangkok (Upper Thonburi from Rama VII Bridge to Phra Pinklao) linking with the rest of expressway system are in urgent need and have to be implemented as soon as possible at very cheap price.

2) The new master plan calls for 200-km of new mass transit system within 20 years, but premier Thaksin have spurred the project by asking for 100 km of new mass transit lines to be done in 5 years and complete the 200 km in 10 year--massive construction indeed which would require privatization of SRT (sell to EGAT, MEA or PEA as well as the foreign partners to electrify the system)

3) Bangkok needs new minor roads connecting with major roads to break all the dead ends. Also new road construction, but the people from neighborhoods have raised their fists to say "don't evict us from our land! We did no wrong which causes you to punish us like this!" Also required is a new road connecting Western Kanchanaphisek with Eastern Kanchanaphisek from Bang Yai to Ram Indra.

The BMA Traffic Bureau reported:
Thaweesak Loedpraphan [Director of BMA Traffic Bureau] said that the current 23.5 km of BTSC Skytrain is definitely not enough. Taksin and Samrong extension will be one of many answers for the system expansion.

The first phase of Taksin Extension [Saphan Taksin - Taksin Intersection - 2.2 km] will be done in December 2004 while the 2nd phase [Taksin Intersection - Talad Ploo - Phetkasem - 6.5 km] will be done in December 2006.

Somrong extension [8.9 km] will be done in December 2006. BMA also considers Paknam Extension [Samrong - Naval Academy - Samut Prakarn - 4 km] to be started in 2007 and finished in 2010 with cooperation from Samut Prakarn City Hall. Paknam extension will enable to Skytrain to reach the new park and ride facility on land belonging to the Treasury Dept--not far from Paknam City Hall--and pick up many potential passengers from Samut Prakarn and Phra Padaeng.

For the case of Phaholyothin Extension, the cabinet initially wants Skytrain to terminate at Ratchayothin [3 km]. However, complains from people in Kaset as well as northern Bangkok have forced Governor Samak to ask the cabinet for approval for the northern extension from Mochit to Saphan Mai [14 km from Mochit] and then Lam Lookka [26 km from Mochit].

For the case of the Suvannabhum Airport Line, this will complement the government Red Line SA Air City Line -> will be built after Airport Express and Airport Commuter line becomes a reality.

Suvannabhum Airport Line will go from Onnut [New Station connecting with the old Onnut Station and Carrefour Onnut] which will go along U-Shape pillars until it passes Sri Nut Intersection [4 km]. After that, the line will be supported by Y shape pillars [from Sri Nut to NBIA].

Since this will not be enough, the 82.5 km Bangkok Ring Railway from Kae Rai Intersection to go along Ngam Wongwan Road, Kaset--Nawamin Road to Bang Kapi and then Sri Nakharin to Theparak to Poocah Samingphrai before going into an underwater tunnel at Nakhon Khenkhan, Bang Mod, and then Phetkasem-Ratthathibet to end up at Kae Rai. If Bangkok Ring Railway becomes a reality, it will allow Bangkokian to go from one end to another (Kaset - Thepahrak, Phetkasem - Bangkapi) within 45 minutes.

The initial price for tickets would be 15 baht (but more likely to to be inline with Skytrain rates so that it will allow the ticket integration) so that the round trip will be within 40 baht range. Park and rides along the ring would be constructed as well.

After the Ring railway is opened for service, BMA will consider limiting the numbers of cars entering the Bangkok area.

Land development around Eastern Bangkok from Onnut, Suan Luang, Minburi Prawet, and Lad Krabang are also in need to accommodate those air business workers and suburbanites who move from Don Maung to NBIA. The new Skytrain line to NBIA via Onnut and the eastern part OT Bangkok Ring Railway will be the main arteries for them to the rest of Bangkok.

Bangkok also needs both branch lines and feeder monorail lines to pick up passengers not in the area long the main lines (Samrong Extension, Paknam Extension, Taksin Extension, Phetkasem Extension, Ratchayothin Extension, the future Bangkok Ring, and future Suvannabhum Lines) since feeder buses seem do a lousy job at that.

Some members of the BMA City Council want to ask army units (not the Royal Guard Units) to move from away from Bangkok to have a new HQ in places like Lopburi (a military town). They even want to move the Air Force from Donmaung to Khorat Airforce Base. The RTAF HQ and the Air Security Unit (Royal Guard) must be in Bangkok area.

After the army moves to Lopburi, BMA will have new land plots for parks, a new National Assembly, as well as areas for commercial development. However, many Bangkokians are desperate for more parks and they really feel loathsome about greedy developers who gobble land that is supposed to be new parks.

Furthermore, the traffic rules have to be fully reinforced.

The members of the BMA city council also complain about red tape which prevents BMA from implementing the Skytrain extensions to meet the local demand.

Furthermore, the conflicts of interests have dragged down the Lad Phrao Elevated Way. The members of the BMA City Council want to ask Premier Thaksin to use his power to make a final judgments for those projects.

Pol. Gen. Salang Boonnag (former secretariat for the Royal Project for Traffic Solutions) told to the members of BMA city council and representative from Traffic Office that old roads, canals and the tram system during King Chulalongkorn and King Vajiravut were working very well. However the tram was abandoned, canals have been filled up for new roads, and there was poor policy during the 1970s which wanted to move cars instead of moving people--even though such a policy has given birth to the expressway system.

Pol. Gen. Salang Boonnag also asked BMA to implement a new 11.3-km LRT system (the revival of Lavaline Route to Makkasan via Maenam Railway line) by going from Ploenchit to Makkasan via the area under the expressway. After reaching Makkasan, the new line must go underground and run parallel to the Eastern Railway to Yommaraj. Yommaraj will be an interchange from the line to Hua Lamphong and then Wongwian Yai via Si Phraya, the Northern Commuter to Rangsit, the line from to Bangkok Noy via Lan Luang, Rachadamnoen and Sanam Luang.

For the line that goes to Hua Lamphong, it goes further from Yaowaraj Road, Chakkrawat Road, Bumrung Maung Road and meets with Ratchadamnoen line at Sanam Luang.

Pol. Gen. Salang Boonnag expressed the opinion that the price for constructing the 11.3-km tunnel and ramp might be too much for BMA to implement.

Since the 11.3 km line is connecting the 3 major railway terminals, it will get more passengers from those who commute via the SRT commuter lines -> nearly 170km of track... thus this 11.3 km of lines might end any further need for 200 km Mass Transit lines with a price tag of 730 billion baht (except for the Airport Link and the Commuter Lines (Hopewell revival) which allow 3-minute headway during the rush hours).

Furthermore, this 11.3 km line will keep the status of Sanam Luang as a major bus terminal.

For the Phetkasem extension of the Skytrain (to be done in early 2007), the area from Tha Phra (near Talad Ploo Station of Maklong Railway), could become a terminal.

Pol. Gen. Salang wants to remove all intercity lines as well as the commuter lines to have the terminals in suburbs such as Rangsit and elevate LRT lines. Skytrain lines along railway lines would function as connecting lines between terminals.

Pol. Gen Salang asks BMA to negotiate with the Expressway Authority to construct two new Skytrain lines along expressways and the new Interchange stations for convenient interchange to the new lines:

1) Chaeng Watthana - Bang Klo - Rama IX Bridge - Pracha Uthit [the section from Bang Klo to Wat Son would need a new bridge parallel with Rama IX Bridge or an underwater tunnel depending on the type of train engine]. Otherwise, the ferry across Chaoprha is in needed.

2) Ram Indra - At Narong - Sanphawut - Old Paknam Railway Road - Samrong Tai (if Paknam Road is too narrow, the line along the new expressway from Bang Na to Paknam would be fine)

These two lines will make the combination of expressway/mass transit system -> a fetish though of the 1960's - to become a reality.

Commentary by Wisarut: Old General Salang may have no clue at all that many people live along the major roads instead of the railway lines. Forcing them the movement of people to the suburbs from major inner-city roads is as tough as moving a mountain with bare hands.

Furthermore, Old General Sarang has no clue about the daunting tasks for digging a tunnel from Makkasan to Bangkok Noy since he uses the mindset that "shallow tunnels would be fine!" However, obstructions such as the MWA pipelines, sewage lines, and flyover pillars forced MRTA to dig subway tunnels as deep as 30 meters from the surface!

Most people no longer live from Paknam along the Old Paknam Railway Road... they live along Sri Nakharin, Sukhumvit and Thepharak Roads instead. Old General Salang thinks things are the same as the days when the old Paknam Railway was still in service.

Police Gen. Salang seems to have no idea that Ram Khamhaeng is a major magnet that needs a mass transit line (the Orange line subway)... and what about Yaowaraj? And Saphan Khao Maen Sri and Bumrung Mueng no longer have the status they used to.

Also the ring line he suggests is too small and does not connect with other lines very well. He still thinks the city has too many people and does not understand the size of suburbs.
Discuss this in our forum

More details on the Lad Phrao Elevated Way - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Prachachart Thurakij, August 11-13, 2003
BMA and the Expressway Authority agreed to connect the proposed Lad Phrao Elevated Way (Lad Phrao - Bangkapi - Kanchanaphisek) and the Rama VI Expressway (Bangsue - Rama Vi - Borom Ratchonnanee) to facilitate traffic from Northern Thonburi and Nakhon Pathom to reach the NBIA. However, the final connecting point at the tollway has not been finalized yet - either at lad Phrao Intersection or the Ratchavibha Intersection...
Such a connection forced the budget from Lad Phrao Elevated Way to balloon from 1.4 billion baht to more than 5 billion baht since BMA needs to expropriate land for the connection to avoid interfering with the subway and skytrain routes, and BMA needs to redesign the elevated ways, install toll gates, and draft new a TOR to attract contractors.
According to the plan, BMA will install bus stops for express buses on the elevated way every 500 meters. This plan will end any further need for a Yellow line LRT or MRT.
However, the major obstacle is the 1.5-m radius MWA water pipeline along Lad Phrao Road which was installed by MWA about 20 years ago. To move such a 10-km long pipeline from the middle of the road, BMA needs to close Lad Phrao Road for the traffic for at least a year.
Commentary by Wisarut: I do not think the Express Bus on the elevated way will work. There was an attempt to set up a new bus station in the middle of Lad Phrao Road and Narathiwat Road so that the bus will function as an express bus, but it utterly failed.

Notes on the airport high-speed train - July 30, 2003
Wisarut Bholsithi writes: After taking at look at the model high speed rail from SRT (photo below), I would say that it is the DESIRO Commuter and Regional Train which Siemens has produced for use in Germany as well as for export.
If Suriya and Thaksin really want to have a high speed train for Bangkok (Bangsue) to Nakorn Ratchasima (either Nakhon Ratchasima Station or Thanon Chira Junction), Siemens trains such as ICE (Intercity Express Train - ICE, ICE2, ICE3, ICE5, VERALO or VENTURIO) which has a maximum speed of 250-300 km/hr - enough to compete with domestic airlines.
DESIRO is IDEAL for the Suvanabhumi Airport Link due to the short distance (25 km from Makkasan -NBIA, 27 km for Phyathai-NBIA Commuter, or even about 40 km from Bangsue to NBIA, 50 km from Donmaung to NBIA, and 60 km from Rangsit to NBIA in the future).
SRT was going to use the DESIRO to implement the Red Line (the Hopewell system) in the same way Malaysia has used DESIRO to implement the 57-km KLIA Airport Express to KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport). So it is not a surprise that SRT wants to use that type to train for the airport link.
For the case of ICE and DESIRO, there's more info at the Siemens website:
1) Siemens' Intercity Express
2) Siemens' DESIRO Commuter and Regional Train
Also: According to Siemens, BTS Skytrain rolling stock requires power of 230 KVA--a very high current due to the fact that the rolling stock body of Skytrain is about 1445 kg (1.445 metric tons).
Siemens used Taipei MRT rolling stocks as a prototype for the BTS Skytrain rolling stock. Half of Siemens' rolling stock for Taipei MRT was assembled in Taiwan to gain the technology know how as well as to cut down operation cost.
Siemens holds 95% of Taipei MRT stock and the company expects to do the same for the Bangkok Mass Transit System Integration.
Pas of Bangkok Highrises scanned this photo of a railway official holding a model of the proposed electric train linking the new airport (Bangkok Post, July 15 2003)

High-speed train to Khorat - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Thansetthakij, July 27-30, 2003
There are two route options for the high-speed rail from Bangkok to Khorat to avoid a 'mountain' section
1) Bangkok - Nong Khae - Pak Chong - Khorat
2) BANGKOK - Nakhon Nayok - Khorat
The second option has lots of opposition. For the case of Pakchong, the government will have to ask the 2nd Army to move their ordinance as well as the military units make the way for the station. In Khorat, SRT land between Nakhon Ratchasima Station and Thanon Jira Junction or even some part of the 2nd Army Headquarters Area can be used to construct the new Nakhon Ratchasima Station which is close to downtown Khorat.
The government said the average speed for this train would be 180 km/hr and the route would be about 150-180 km (Bangkok to Khorat within 45 minutes -> as fast as the airplane). The ticket price would be 600 baht (compared with a plane ticket of 1200 baht).
Commentary by Wisarut: It appears the train type would be Desiro. If the government really wants to create a high speed rail of 180 km/hr or more, they should do the following things:
1) Use the 60 kg/m high resistant rails (the standard rail for Shinkansen) -> the current 50 kg/m rails used by SRT are not enough.
2) The 25-m bar of these 60 kg/m high resistant rails must be welded together into 4000-m rails for smooth operation
3) Electric lines of 25 KV with transformers must be installed
4) To finance this project, SRT must be privatized.
5) Grant investment privileges for existing as well as new industries relating to high speed rails (steel rail production) so that their will be the domestic industrial bases to support the network expansions of high speed rails in the future.
6) If the government insists using DESIRO types of rail cars instead of ICE, TGV or mini Shinkansen, this must be modified to have lighter weight so speed can average 180 km/hr.

Southern high-speed train - July 28, 2003
Pas of Bangkok Highrises points out: I found this announcement at SRT's website: call for a feasibility on a proposed high-speed train (southern route) between Bangkok and Padangbesar, near the Malaysian border. The page doesn't say if/when the bidding has finished...

State Railway Authority of Thailand (SRT) a haven for mass corruption - The Nation, July 28, 2003
Thai Rak Thai Party MP Prachuap Ungpakorn asked him to clarify suspicions that the wife of a top-level SRT official had received kickbacks over a project to build a short railway route from Bangkok's Wong Wian Yai to Samut Songkhram
Prachuap also alleged there was massive corruption in the leasing of Chatuchak Weekend Market to vendors. He said some Bt100 million should be generated from the leases each year, but the state agency was only receiving around Bt800,000 annually.
Democrat MP Somboon Uthaiwiankul asked Jitsanti if a train once used for mobile Cabinet meetings and now used as a public service had generated income for the SRT. The governor once again declined to answer.

The Southern Bangkok Terminal at Bang Wah - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Manager Weekly, July 25, 2003
Traffic Policy Office is pushing very hard for the Southern Bangkok Transportation Center at Bang Wah. BMA will be the owner of this center, thus BMA will be in charge of land expropriation and construction of the infrastructure. It will take 10 years to become a reality if the government has a strong commitment to the project.
In the near future, the mass transit system network will create 3 Bangkok transportation centers which could become real golden land for business centers.
1) Northern Bangkok Transportation Center at Phaholyothin (Bangsue)
2) Eastern Bangkok Transportation Center at Makkasan
3) Southern Bangkok Transportation center at Bang Wah (Taksin)
So far, the first two centers have not materialized yet despite the fact that they are on SRT land--the public land and thus easy to develop. The Southern Bangkok Transportation center is even harder to develop into a business and transportation center since most of the land plots are private land for agriculture.
The overall area for Southern Bangkok Transportation center at Bang Wah is 8 sq km (5000 rai), but the first phase would be built on the first 2 sq km (1250 rai) - the place where the Skytrain, Subway and Maeklong Railway cross.
There are 2 ways for BMA to handle the land acquisition
1) Public investment on infrastructure
2) Private Investment
It would take 10 years to develop this area due to the continual Skytrain-Subway extensions and the double tracking of Maeklong Railway (Mahachai Section) in the future.
Southern Bangkok Transportation center at Bang Wah was initially proposed by OCMLT and Traffic Policy Office revived the plan. It will cover the area around Taksin-Phetkasem Road, and area between Ratchadaphisek Inner Ring Road and Phetkasem Road - the area where the Skytrain-Subway and Maeklong Railway Intersect. This project was proposed to cut heavy traffic across Chao Phraya since 80% of jobs for Thonburi people are on the Bangkok side even though there and there are 2.5-3.5 million people who live on the Thonburi side of Bangkok. The Transportation and Business Center at Bangkwah will allow Thonburi people to work close to their homes with no need to go across Chaophraya by bus, car, ferry, or express boat.
Furthermore, there is a proposal to construct the bridge from Mae Klong to connect with the Southern railway at Pak Tho. The bridge would connect the Mahachai section and Mae Klong section to allow system integration and the final bridge so the Maeklogn Railway could connect with Hua Lamphong. However it would require major land expropriation to do so.
Furthermore, BMA asked Krungthep Thanakhom to study the Land Bank plan (finished in 2001) which allows the government to purchase the land at a cheap price before land development - which is better than land expropriation. After the development, BMA could sell the developed land at higher prices to the private firms to make a profit to finance the project instead of relying on the annual budget. The land bank plan has been applied extensively in Germany and Sweden.
The new 2004 city plan also asks BMA to allow the modification of land allocations to be in line with future plans. If the proposed line follows the new masterplan, the Traffic Policy Office will asks BMA to issue the plan for the Southern Bangkok Transportation center at Bang Wah.
It is possible to apply the city planning law to acquire areas which have less density while those with higher density still need land expropriation. BMA and Traffic Office are planning the budget to handle the projects.
The plan for the Southern Bangkok Transportation center at Bang Wah could be done within 1 year without waiting for the new city plan in 2004. The plan will cover the first 4 sq km (2500 rai).
According to the studies, the payoff for this project is 500% of the investment. Furthermore, this Southern Bangkok Transportation center will the first integrated transportation system with land management and development at the same time.
The economic recession of 1997-2001 has forbidden BMA from handling the Southern Bangkok Transportation center at Bang Wah project due to the lack of funds. Initially, BMA will expropriate the land but the plan has not been materialized yet. For the land management Act, it is just passed by the House of Representatives, it is a better deal than the land expropriation which is too harsh. The land management plan will allow landowners to participate in the deal and boost the land value at least 300% compared to the current level. However, BMA needs the central government to help BMA to start this muiltibillion dollar project.

Traffic Office approves BMA to construct the Lad Phrao Elevated Way with conditions attached - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Dailynews, July 11, 2003
After the meeting between the Traffic Committee headed by Premier Thaksin and the BMA on July 4, the Traffic Office has given approval for BMA to construct the Lad Phrao Elevated Way - with the following conditions attached:
1) That it be a long elevated way from Soi Phawana to Bangkapi Intersection - lowest point at Pradit Manootham Road intersecting with Lad Phrao Road.
2) That it allow intercity buses and vans to use the elevated way and allow the Yellow Line Mass Transit System (the subway) to be constructed along the elevated way.
3) That it connect with Rama VI Expressway (a substitute to Phyathai - Phutthamonthon Expressway) which will connect with Boromrajchonnanee Elevated Way at one end.
Commentary by Wisarut: Long elevated way will allows intercity bus from Mochit 2 to head eastward to Chachoengsao and Rayong without itnerruption at Bangkapi as well as other intersections.
If Ladphrao elevated way could accommodate the elevated Yellow line, we would like to see if the Orange line could be elevated from Lam Salee to Ramkhamhaeng 21 without demolishing the Ramkhamhaeng elevated way.
The Blue line subway (Hua Lamphong - Lumphinee section) has shown that it is possible to construction along (under) the Thai-Japan Flyover, but we are not sure how much it would cost if MRTA were to dug a subway tunnel from Lamsalee to MRTA Depot.
Connecting the Lad Phrao Elevated way from Soi Phawana to the future Rama VI Expressway will have to pass through Ratchadaphisek Road to Bangsue via Ratchayothin Intersection and Ratchawipha Intersection. Not much a problem from Bangsue to Ratchawipha, but problems will arise from Ratchawipha Intersection to Soi Phawana (Lad Phrao Road). Either land exapropriation is necessary or it would have to go along Ratchadaphisek. Nevertheless, it will allow more cars to go to Donmuang Tollway as well as the 2nd stage expressway and help Donmuang Tollway stay afloat.

Siemens keen to vie for new routes - Bangkok Post, July 17, 2003
Regular readers will have read about this last week (Siemens says it wants to bid for Bangkok mass transit integration too, translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Transport Journal, July 7-14, 2003). The Post also omits the reason Siemens made these statements: they were in response to earlier comments from Ministry of Transport and Communication officials that Canadian company Bombadier would be a "clear winner" and the only company in the race to integrate Bangkok mass transit (Bombadier has the best chance to integrate Bangkok mass transit, translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Thansetthakij, July 10-12, 2003).

Siemens says it wants to bid for Bangkok mass transit integration too - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Transport Journal, July 7-14, 2003
[Yesterday we carried a story from Thansetthakij in which Ministry of Transport and Communication (MOTC) officials tried to give the impression that Canadian company Bombadier was the only company in the running to bid on the integration of Bangkok mass transit. Bombadier has paid to show MOTC officials how Bombadier handles transit projects in Europe and North America. Siemens, also keen to handle the project, has quickly responded that they are definitely in the running as well.]
Despite rumors from MOTC that only Bombadier will be the sole winner to integrated Bangkok mass transit, Siemens (Thailand) said it will fight to get a new bid for Mass Transit System Integration and Expansion after successfully grabbing Skytrain and Subway projects due to their healthy financial status as well as the professionalism. Herrn Dither Stingle (Deputy Senior Director and the director of Siemens Transportation Groups) informed correspondent from Transport Journal about issues relating to Siemens Transportation Systems Group.
Siemens Transportation Systems Group already received orders from BMCL to produce 19 sets of 3-car subway rolling stock (Heavy Rail) at the price of 350 million Euro (then 14 billion baht-now 15.4 billion baht) for the blue line subway at the end of 2001. The cars will be delivered to Thailand in October 2003. Furthermore, the signal, power, communication, and other equipment for the MRTA maintenance center with 10 years contract for maintenance and management was also purchased from Siemens. The subway deals are the second successful deals in Thailand after the Skytrain deal with BTSC.
Siemens is the company with expertise in electronics up to international standard for more than 150 years. The company opened an office in Thailand in October 1995, after relying on B. Grimm Group to enter into Thailand in 1900. They still keep ties with B Grimm Group even after opening a Bangkok Office which employs 1700.
There are 5 core business for Siemens (Thailand)
1) Automation and Control Systems for Building and Industry
2) Information Technology and Communication -> Siemens Mobile phones, Signal Installation for SRT in 1970
3) Medical Instruments -> CT Scan and MRI
4) Power Plants
5) Transportation Systems -> BTSC and MRTA
Initially, Siemens, lead by Herrn. Stingle, was working with Hopewell to implement the Hopewell project via BGrimm, but this was a utter failure. However, Siemens successfully implemented the Skytrain Project and Subway system later on so Siemens will be back to fight for the Bangkok system integration project which includes the revitalization of the Hopewell project and an Airport Link in addition to Skytrain-Subway integration.
For the Airport Link, Siemens has worked on the 57-km KLIA Express (KL Sentral - KLIA) with commuter rail system (5 stations). The KLIA Express and Commuter uses 4-car rolling stock (Desiro Type). The KLIA version has 156 seats per car with no standing, but the commuter version has 4 flip up seats for the handicapped, and 144 seats per car and 396 can stand. Desiro Types could be expanded to 8-car types by either connecting two original sets together or making new 8-car sets. ERL (KLIA Express) lines run every 10-15 minutes while the commuter (CRS) will run every 30 minutes.
Since they have the Subway and Skytrain under their belt already, Siemens has a strong determination to deal with the system expansion and integration projects so as to keep the status of market leadership by experience. It is not considered as a monopoly at all because participation in both Skytrain and Subway project were won by bids with fair competition.
Herrn Stingle said the company could not give more details on system integration until the government has a much clearer policy about transportation systems.
Siemens Transportation Systems Group has introduced the product and comprehensive services to control mass transit systems such as the main tracks, power lines, turnkey projects, heavy rail, light rail, locomotives, and rolling stock. For the 2001/2002 budget year, Siemens Transportation System Group has revenue from selling products at 4.37 billion Euros--a 9% increase.

Bombadier has the best chance to integrate Bangkok mass transit - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Thansetthakij, July 10-12, 2003
Dr. Khamroblux Suratsawadee (Director of Traffic Policy Office, MOTC) told the press that the 129.7-km integrated Mass Transit system will have a budget of 150 billion baht.
To cut down public debt, the private sector will handle the integrated systems. If the private sector thinks that a 130-km system is still not worth investing in, the public sectors will subsidize in the project. For example, if a company wants to freeze tickets at 10 baht instead of 30-40 baht, the government will pay the rest to ensure that the company could freeze the price at 10 baht. The subsidies will last for 25-30 years.
So far, there are very few companies in the world which have the resources to handle both production and management of mass transit systems. The Canadian company Bombadier Transport has both resources and determination to undertake such mammoth tasks since the company has had contacts with MOTC several times. Bombadier has paid to show MOTC officers to see the way they handle railways and mass transit systems in England (London, United Kingdom - Central Line, Nottingham Express Transit Tram, DEMU Voyager, DMU Turbo Star, EMU Electrostar, and TGV [France, England,Belgium]).
Even though Siemens AG is another group with the ability to handle the production and management of mass transit system, the company declines to take a major part (production and management) of the system integration project. Siemens AG would take only a minority part as a supplier for an integration project - just supply the resources to support Bombadier to ensure smooth system integration. So, Bombadier is a clear winner. [ has an article on Siemens we will post soon that disputes this point.]
PM Thaksin want to tighten the schedule for system integration and expansion from 20 years (2002-2021) to be done in 5 years!
First Phase - The Main Lines - 111.93 km
1) SRT Red Line Commuter - 79.44 km (replacement of Hopewell) -> 140.624 billion baht [including airport link]
2) MRTA Southern extension of Blue line Subway - 13.8 km, 32.495 billion baht
3) BTSC Skytrain Extensions (Taksin Phase 1, Taksin Phase 2, Samrong, and Ratchayothin) 18.69 km, 29.77 billion baht
2nd Phase - The Line Development
1) MRTA Northern Extension and MRTA Ring Subway - 42.2 km, 60.04 billion baht
2) Skytrain Extensions (Lam Lookka Extension - Sanam Luang Extension) 20.28 km, 45.442 billion baht
3) MRTA Orange Line 31.75 km - 98.201 billion baht (Thai Cultural Center - Minburi)
Commentary by Wisarut: Note that the Thansetthakij correspondent did not separate SRT commuter lines into two phases as the way that it is planned.
The massive expansion of Skytrain, Subway System, and SRT commuter train would definitely spark a major real estate boom, but that would need to be handled carefully or they could face another 1997 recession on a much larger scale.
Bombadier has strong experience to handle massive tasks such as the modernization of the NY subway. We hope that they would be able to handle such massive tasks with similar spectacular success in Thailand.
The token readers and vending machines at MRTA subway station must be replaced with magnetic card readers at the turnstiles and magnetic card vending machines. The integrated smart card also need to be install to ensure system integration.

Memo to the transport minister--Use mass transit system to wage war on traffic jams! - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Transport and Travel Journal, June 30, 2003
MOTC is heading the right way in adding 100 km more Skytrain and subway routes within 10 years according to the the master plan of the Traffic Office.
Dr. Samart Ratpolasit (the head of the Traffic Subcommittee and Traffic Engineer, Engineering Society of Thailand - graduate from Chiangmai University and received Ph.D. from Tokyo University) said he agreed in principle with the plans. However, he still worries about the details of the actual implementation.
Dr. Samart said the new routes must go out of the cities to suburbs--especially the western side of the Chaophraya River (Thonburi, Phrapadaeng, Bang Yai and Bang Buathong) since there very few routes to those places. Routes inside the city are not enough--they must spread in all directions.
Dr. Samart also mentioned that the Bangkok Ring Railway of Governor Samak should be put under serious consideration since it would connect Bangyai, Bang Buathong, Lam Lookka, Bangkapi, Ram Indra and Minburi with the other mass transit systems. However, the radius lines such as the Phaholyothin extension of the Skytrain, Samrong extensions, the Orange line, the north-south extension of the Blue line must be connected with the Ring with comfortable interchanges. The Ring railway will be useless without radius lines.
Worries about how the investment plan works
The most worrisome matter for Dr. Samart is the 100% private sector investment with government subsidies. If the actual ticket price is 50 baht, it will be sold to the passengers at only 25 baht and the government will cover the rest. The private sector must be ensured by the government that they will always receive subsidies no matter which parties will form the government. Ways to finance the subsidies are still in doubt as well--nationwide excise taxes on fuel and tariffs on luxury cars (especially imported cars) would spark discontent among rural folk who see no point to subsidize mass transit systems since they do not use them at all unless they migrate to Bangkok.
The estimated figures from MOTC stated there will be two million passengers a day and the government expense from tickets would be about ten billion baht a year so there would be a need to subsidize ten billion baht a year to cover the expense forever. Even though this will help Bangkokians to pay less for the mass transit, such a scheme is unsustainable in reality.
The new land tax for value capture from owners of shops and land along Skytrain-subway routes would be an alternative to finance the fares since land owners directly receive benefits from the new subway-skytrain routes (increasing customers, higher land prices, higher rents etc).
Looking at various investment schemes
The Skytrain, which is a 100% private investment, has given a hard lesson for 100% investment schemes--5 million baht daily revenue, but 11 million baht a daily expense despite increasing numbers of passengers. On the other hand, the 80% public and 20% private scheme of the subway is relatively better than 100% private investment.
The government will need to allow the private sector to invest in the fields relating to mass transit systems with government support so that they will have funds to finance projects and an incentive to invest in the projects.
The only feasible way to implement additional mass transit systems is to make a public investment in the first place to increase the incentive for the private sector to invest in the project. The allocation for public and private investment depends upon the potential of private sectors (local or foreign). The government must make a vigorous investigation into private concessions to check if the private sector has a strong enough commitment to finish the project without abandoning the project--no matter how late the project would be.
Upgrading provincial raillinks
Since most people undertake intercity travel by automobile, high-speed rails with standard gauge linking Bangkok with major cities like Khorat and Phitsanulok should be seriously considered to reduce road carnage which causes staggering deaths and to jump start provincial development to be on par with Bangkok. The high speed rail must be long enough to compete with air travel. Bangkok to Khorat is a good candidate since it has a long distance (300 km by road), and there is busy traffic between Bangkok and Khorat every day due to the fact that Khorat is a gateway to the Northeast.
Investment on high-speed rail will use the same scheme as the urban mass transit system--public-private joint venture with an initial investment by the government with the local private sector handling the service and the foreign private sector to investing in the rolling stocks.
If the government decides to invest in the high speed rail, the national wide tax on luxury cars and fuel will become more reasonable since the rural sector will get a benefit from the high speed rail.
After declaring war on drugs and influential figures, how about traffic?
Now that the Thai economy is back from recession, traffic gridlock is building up fast again (800 new cars a day in Bangkok alone). Therefore, the government needs to invest in mass transit system as well as high-speed rail. The initial public debts will be paid off by the increasing production and the construction will add more jobs and boost the economy. Failure to do so will hurt the country in the long run.
The current wars on drugs and influential figures are considered successful even though they were not perfectly executed. Therefore, it is about time for the government to declare war on traffic jams by using the railed mass transit systems and high speed rail as major weapons. To increase the effectiveness of these weapons, the public initial investment on the system and the investment package to increase the effectiveness of mass transit systems are essential.
Commentary by Wisarut:
1) For the companies with a high potential like Bombadier (the French rail transit system giant) and Siemens (German mass rail transit giant), a joint venture with the local companies should be considered.
2) Companies like Mitsui and Marubeni also have a good chance if they pick up the right suppliers. Usually, Japanese trading companies will ask Korean companies like Hyndai to supply rolling stock since Korean firms like Rotem (a subsidiary of Hyundai), and Daewoo could produce subway rolling stock with a quality at par Japanese producers (like Kawasaki, Hitachi) at cheaper prices.
3) It would be good to set up a workshop to handle assembly of licensed rolling stocks locally so that Thailand will be able produce local versions subway rolling stock to be used for the new lines around Bangkok and other major provinces.
4) City halls in neighboring provinces (Samut Parkarn, Nonthaburi and Pathumthani) must work hand in hand with Bangkok to implement with the mass transit system. BMA should also ask the Traffic Policy Office and MRTA to coordinate with city halls so that the system will be standardized and facilitate easy system integration in the future.
5) I hope that there will be modification of the masterplan in 2005 to add the Bangkok Ring railway into account - but the Yellow line must be modified to become the Lad Phrao line (Ladphrao - Bangkapi) to link the Subway with the Bangkok Ring railway. The yellow line should go along Ratchadaphisek to Ratchayothin to link with Skytrain and then to end up at Mochit 2 to enable bus passengers to use the system to go to downtown as well as allowing those who live in Bangkok to exit to other provinces with convenient links. However, this can be delayed if the Northern Bangkok terminal at Mochit is brought back from death.
6) BTW: the highest number of passenger for the skytrain was 470,000 passengers on new year's eve due to the fact that lots of Bangkokians went to the World Trade Center to count down (including me!). The daily pass was 70 baht for New Year's Eve so lots of people went to Silom and Ratprasong to count down. The trendy people go to Ratprasong, those who want to have fun go to Silom and ordinary folk go to Sanamluang.

PM orders rail link extensions - Bangkok Post, July 5, 2003
Mr Thaksin said he wanted to give top authority to a single agency picked to implement the project. However, it would not be the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, which currently supervises the BTS system. The premier said he had made that point clear to Bangkok governor Samak Sundaravej.

A tale of two newspapers: New expressways - July 4, 2003
Last week we carried a summary of a Thairath story on future expressways (Expressway linking Thonburi & Bangkok/Donmuang tollway out of business without help/Options for the suburbs - Thairath, June 28, 2003). Today the Post carries Ambitious traffic jam cure tabled (Bangkok Post, July 4, 2003). Post readers should note that these plans are nebulous. When the Post writes "plans will be forwarded to the Commission for Management of Land Traffic, chaired by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra," it means planners are asking approval for a long round of expensive studies.

Expressway linking Thonburi & Bangkok/Donmuang tollway out of business without help/Options for the suburbs - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Thairath, June 28, 2003
The Traffic Policy Office received a 125 million baht loan to study a new expressway to link Thonburi with Bangkok. This is after the Phyathai-Phutthamonthon expressway project has been canceled.
The proposed 16.8 km expressway would start at Bangsue - connecting at the 2nd stage expressway at Mochit 2 and then going parallel with the Southern Railway to end up at Borom Ratchachonnanee elevated way at Talingchan.
The Traffic Policy Office also considered the connection from Mochit 2 to Donmuang Tollway at Ratchavibha Interchange to revitalize the debt-ridden Donmuang tollway.
The concession holder of Donmuang Tollway said they will be out of business by 2005 unless the Highway Dept comes up with a plan to revitalize the tollway--the connection with the 1st stage expressway is not enough. The tollway needs a new connection with both the 2nd stage expressway and the eastern part of Kanchanaphisek Outer Ring road.
One of the proposed connections would go along Ram Indra Road and Chaeng Watthana Road (both part of Highway 304). However, most local people would protest against such a project since they prefer Skytrain connections or extensions instead.
The van service from Muangthong Thanee and Muangthong Niwet (both suburb villages developed by Bangkokland PCL) is not enough for them. A Skytrain extension is the answer which the villagers are desperate for. However, the Kanchanaphak Family (the owner of BTSC and Impact Convention Center in Muangthong Thanee) will have to negotiate with Ch. Karnchang and the Expressway Authority if they want to make a Skytrain extension from Victory Monument to Muangthong Thanee along the 2nd Stage Expressway.

Privatizing the Thai railways: an SRT worker's comments - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from a webboard.
The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) has undergone continual controversy over plans to privatize and accusations of some of the worst corruption among government entities. One worker wrote the following on a webboard:
.. I also feel very fed up with SRT even though I have to work with them every day. It does not progress in the way it is supposed to. I think we have lost working spirit and have very low morale...
For internal problems, the SRT board has no unity on a plan to handle the SRT Union. The SRT board and the leaders of SRT Union always meddle in SRT affairs. The SRT board and leaders of SRT Union still act like a bunch of cry babies. If the members of the SRT board have wounds to hide (e.g. scandals), the SRT union makes deals with them. The handling of SRT human resources (such as transfers) always involves patronage, collusion, corruption, as well as Machiavellian politics and intrigue between different camps inside SRT.
Even worse, the government is insincere in dealing with SRT problems since they have deals with the SRT Union and board. The government just wants to exploit the SRT mess without looking at the SRT problems and ways to deal with them. Other countries take care of their railed transportation.
...Politicians (from all parties) always think that solving real SRT problems have very low political benefits, so they just make bandaid solutions and cosmetic changes without going deep into problems.
Even though I hope that Premier Thaksin will use his skills to deal with SRT problems, I feel more and more hopeless when he sends a man like Minister Suriya. Minister Suriya knows nothing about railways since he is an auto part merchant. ... Even the SRT board nomination is just for political gain (to gain voters from SRT workers and officers), so the SRT still ever present.
I would like Khun Phayap Wanasuwan
[pen name of the owner of the Manager Group] to write articles to make Premier Thaksin and Minister Suriya know that the way to deal with the internal problems of SRT would be to take the following measures:
1) Major overhaul of the internal administration and management of the SRT, especially the Human Resource and Asset Management and prohibiting the SRT Union from meddling with the SRT Board and Administration.
2) SRT reform - needs a quick privatization without giving a damn to the SRT Union. The SRT Union has no real power base or supporters. The large number of members in the SRT Union come from the members of the SRT Union cooperative which was set up as a fake political base to gain a mass of members.
If SRT workers workers become members of the SRT Union, they get a sweet deal--loans up to 600% of their deposits with bargain prices - unavailable from any commercial banks. The SRT Union are standing against privatization since they will lose the benefits from SRT. Not surprising, the SRT Union tries to create havoc every time there is a mention of SRT privatization. If Premier Thaksin is really sincere about SRT reform, please make a successful privatization and I'll ordain as a Buddhist monk for you if you can do it!
SRT Workers
June 20, 2003

MOTC planning 576 billion baht for long term transport development (2003-2030) - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Bangkokbiznews, June 17, 2003
MOTC has submitted a plan for continuing transportation development from 2003-2030 with a total budget of 576.785 billion baht (3 phases - 40 billion for the short term, 400 billion for middle term, and 100 billion for the long term) with 3 strategies:
1) Increasing efficiency of basic infrastructure and the facilities to connect with international transportation systems
2) New and modified laws and rules to facilitate transportation development
3) Development and support of transportation businesses.
Most of the short term money will go to the Highway Department to expand highway capacity - especially at border towns (the route from Mae Sod to Mukdaharn, Aranyaprathet, the route along the Mekhong, Chong Mek checkpoint of Ubon, Huay Kon Checkpoint of Nan) as well as the 2nd Thai-Lao Bridge at Pak Baeng (1.2 billion baht - 2006-2008).
The expansion of motorways to Suvannabhum Airport also get first priority (2003-2006).
1) BKK-Chonburi Motorway (Sri Nakharin - Suvannabhum Airport) - 0.550 billion baht
2) Kanchanaphisek Outer Ring Road (Ram Indra - Bang Plee) 2.050 billion baht
3) Kanchanaphisek Outer Ring Road (Suk Sawat - Bang Plee) 16 billion baht
Other road expansion
Bangkok-Chonburi Motorway (Phatthaya -Mab Taphut) 4.1 billion baht (2006-2008)
New motorways such as Pak Tho -Cha Am - 10.7 billion baht (2003-2005)
Bang Yai - Pak Tho - 12.2 billion baht (2004-2006)
Lamphun - Lampang - 21.33 billion baht (2006-2008)
Saraburi - Bang Pakong Motorway - 19.2 billion baht (2006-2008)
Bang Pa In - Khorat - 31.3 billion baht (2006-2011)
Lamphun - Chiangmai - 5.65 billion baht (2004-2006)
NBIA also received a budget for the following:
2nd phase expansion - 50 billion baht (2012-2016)
the Thai Inter Maintenance center at U Tapao - 14.172 billion baht (2007-2014)
the Runway and Cargo rehabilitation of U-Tapao - 1.2 billion baht (2004-2006)
Other budgeted items:
the Thai Inter and Industrial Estate - 2 billion baht
the New Ship Building Yard at Laem Chabang - 2.65 billion Baht (2004-2006)
the 3rd phase Mab Taphut expansion to support the PTT Oil depot and Industrial estate - 11.826 billion baht (2004-2008)
the new Deep sea port at Sichon, Nakhon Srithammarat by Marine Transportation Department [The successor of Harbor Department] (2009-2012)
SRT also received a token budget about equal to the Highway Department as usual:
1) Rail Rehabilitation (Hua Hin - Ban Krut) 4.7 billion (2003-2007)
2) Rail Rehabilitation (Chai Ya - Thung Song) 4.7 billion (2003-2007)
3) Rail Rehabilitation (Lopburi - Chumsaeng) 2 billion (2003-2006)
4) Rail Rehabilitation (Chumsaeng - Phitsanulok) 1.4 billion (2003-2007)
5) New Rail line from Surat Thanee - Phang Nga (Tha Nun - opposite to Phuket) - the land bridge - 12.81 billion Baht (2004-2007)
6) The 2nd ICD at Lad Krabang 4.32 billion (2004-2006)
7) The 3rd track from Hua Mark to Chachoengsao - 8.7 billion (2005-2010)
8) The 2nd track from Ban Phaachee - Kaeng Khoy - Khorat (3rd track for the case of Ban Phachee - Kaeng Khoy) 7.5 billion (2005-2011)
9) The 2nd track from Lop Buri - Nakhon Sawan - 10.2 billion (2005-2011)
10) The 2nd Track from Nakhon Pathom - Hua Hin - 32 billion (2005-2008)
11) New Rail line from Denchai - Chiang Rai - 22 billion (because of the demands of Northerners) - 2007-2016
12) Northern Transportation Hub at Phaholyothin and Eastern Transportation Hum at Makkasan - 23 billion baht - 2007-2011
13) New Rail line from Ubon to Chong Mek Checkpoint - 10 billion baht (2016-2021)
14) New Rail line from Bua Yai junction - Roy Et - Nakhon Phanom - 25 billion baht (2021-2030)
Commentary by Wisarut: After looking at the MOTC transportation plan, it seems to me that Premier Thaksin and Minister Suriya have no real commitment to deal with either the Airport Link (Bangsue - Yommaraj - Phayathai - Makkasan - Hua Mark - NBIA) or the High Speed Railway (Bangkok - Ayutthaya - Ban Phachee - Kaeng Khoy - Khorat).
They just slapped the bandaid on the SRT problem by approving the 3rd track of Hua Mark - Lad Krabang - Chachoengsao and the 2nd track from Ban Phachee - Khorat while expanding motorways (Sri Nakharin - NBIA, Ram Indra - Bang Plee, Suk Sawat - Bang Plee, Phatthaya -Mab Taphut) and creating new motorways (Bang Pa In - Khorat, Saraburi - Bang Pakong).
After all, Premier Thaksin and his family have interest in real estate and Minister Suriya want his family business [selling auto parts] to get a big boost and receive big dividends from PTT stocks by approving new motorway projects for the Highway Department and granting a token budget to the SRT.
Need help with the acronyms in this article? Try Thai alphabet soup & 2b glossary

Rural bumpkins out of Hualamphong - June 19, 2003
Some further info about the Air conditioning plan for third class railway. Wisarut Bholsithi reports: Minister Suriya also asked SRT to make a major face lift and install air-conditioning in Hua Lamphong Station to add more convenience to passengers. SRT will have to set up temporary shelters nearby to house those vagabonds and rural bumpkins who use Hua Lamphong as a resting place before going to find work around Bangkok so that they will not be an eyesore to well-off passengers and foreign tourists.
BTW: SRT did run privatized services in the past. SRT used to allow private concessions to run the air-conditioned diesel railed car services (from the late 1980s to the early 1990s) which pleased the passengers. However, the SRT Union and SRT board members joined together and forced SRT to cancel such well-received and moneymaking services since the revenue did not go into their pockets. Such heinous moves caused commuter passengers to look down on the SRT workers and board in contempt.

The Ratchadaphisek tunnel - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Thairath Daily & Dailynews, June 16, 2003
After discussion about traffic solutions for Phaholyothin Road, BMA and Traffic Office have come up with the preliminary solution that there will be two new tunnels along Phaholyothin, one at Lat Phrao intersection and the second at Ratchayothin intersection.
However, the tunnel at Ratchayothin has lots of problems due to a giant water supply tunnel that supplies 30% of water from MWA (Metropolitan Water Authority) to northern Bangkok. The construction a tunnel along Ratchapeisek Road at the intersection would require the removal of the giant water tunnel causing major chaos to the life of northern Bangkokians.
The Ratchayothin water tunnel would have to be moved to go along Ratchadaphisek Inner Ring Road instead. The way to handle Ratchayothin flyover would be as follows:
1) Demolish the flyover to make the way for the work.
2) Speed up the Skytrain Phaholyothin Extension (Mochit - Ratchayothin - Kaset - Saphan Mai) and then reassemble the flyover to go along the Skytrain route.
For the case of tunnel at Lad Phrao Intersection, there are also some construction problems, even though not so severe as the Ratchayothin case. Therefore, BMA could start digging the Lad Phrao tunnel first and then the Ratchayothin tunnel along Ratchadaphisek later.

What happened to the Lat Phrao elevated road? - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Thairath Daily & Dailynews, June 16, 2003
BMA also brought up the Lad Phrao Elevated Road. However, the Traffic Office as well as those who live along Lad Phrao Road reject such a project due to the fact that
1) There is another giant water tunnel along Lad Phrao Road
2) The Traffic Office has planned for the Yellow Line Mass Transit System to go along Lad Phrao Road (from MRTA Park & Ride - Bangkapi District Office - Sri Nakarin - Thepharak - Samrong Tai)
3) Many people along Lad Phrao area would prefer a new line of the Skytrain/Subway to go along Lad Phrao Road rather than an elevated road.
The BMA Traffic Bureau responded to the Traffic Office by saying any elevated road would be designed to accommodate the new line of mass transit system.
We first reported this last year: Lat Phrao flyover & Pak Klong Market - 20:14, April 4, 2002
The Nation is reporting that money is being sought for the long-delayed 11-kilometer Lat Phrao flyover. The flyover's original budget was used for the Ramkhamhaeng Road flyover for the 1998 Asian Games.
The elevated road would link the Bang Kapi and Lat Phrao intersections....
The governor said he would also seek another Bt200 million to Bt300 million from the government to relocate the famous Pak Klong Market from Phra Nakhon district to Klong San district.... The area would be turned into an open area so that historical places, such as Kalayanamit Temple, Memorial Bridge and Chetupon Wimolmangaram, could be seen by tourists.
(from Govt funds sought for freeway in Lat Phrao, The Nation, April 4, 2002)

Air conditioning plan for third class railway - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Dailynews, June 2, 2003
Minister Suriya has asked the SRT to study a plan to install air conditioning on all third class railways to boost passenger numbers up from 3% to 30%. Better service will attract more passengers without adding more railway trips. Even the poorer eastern European countries have heating system installed on their third class railways.
The scheme for air-conditioning is either to install a powerful air conditioning system in one car (the middle car) with ducts to carry cool air to the rest of the rail cars. The other scheme will be installation of air conditioning systems in all bogeys.
If there is no corruption and collusion for the air installation, it will be worthwhile to invest in such a project. Furthermore, air conditioning systems are now cheaper and there are a few qualified local brands which produce export-quality air-conditioning systems to compete with imported systems. Good services will enable SRT to boost income. Installing air-conditioning would be a good reason for SRT to raise prices of the third class railways--after prices have been being frozen for about 15-20 years.
Director Jitsanti Thanasophon (SRT director) said SRT is trying to finish the study to install air-conditioning in all 800 sets of the third class cars to be submitted to Minister Suriya. According to the preliminary assessment, the cost for the installation of air-conditioning is 2-3 million baht/bogey -> total 1.6-2.4 billion baht. There are a few ways to handle such a scheme:
1) new air-conditioning systems imported from abroad which cool the rail cars with fewer air-conditioning units
2) local-made air-conditioning systems
The northern commuter lines will get air-conditioning sets first and the other line will follow later. After installation, SRT will apply special fees for air conditioning. If the government allows private sector to install the air condition systems with a maintenance package and then allows SRT to rent the system, the new third class car will be ready for service for the northern commuters by the end of 2003.

The integrated mass transit ticket - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Manager Daily - June 3, 2002
After a seminar with the Traffic Office, Expressway Authority, MRTA, BTSC, BECL, and Donmuang Tollway at the Traffic Office on June 2, Minister Nikorn Jamnong told the press that the integrated ticket system will consist of:
1) Fare structure integration
2) Single ticket - 1 ticket, but used by all parties
3) Clearing house will distribute the income and the government will negotiate among the concession holders when issues arise
So far there are nine private companies that introduced their integrated ticket system during the meeting:
1) Thai Smart Card Co.Ltd (Subsidiary of CP Group - Agribusiness giant and the owner of Telecom Asia - local)
2) Safety Invention Ltd. (local)
3) Advance Info Service (AIS - the subsidiary of Shin Corp. - one of the Premier Thaksin's businesses - local)
4) Mitsui (Thailand) Co.Ltd. (Installed the Smart Card system for the MRTA subway - they also have expressed interest in the Bangkok ring railway and the Subway-Skytrain integration - Japanese)
5) Mitsubishi (Thailand) Co.Ltd. (Japanese)
6) LG International Co.Ltd (Korean)
7) Phillips Electronics (Thailand) Co.Ltd (Dutch)
8) MVA (Thailand) Co.Ltd
9) Loxley PCL (the owner of Loxinfo, the local trading company)
The integrated system will be used at the MRTA subway first (soft opening on Songkran 2004, April 13, 2004, and the heard opening on HM The Queen's Birthday, August 12, 2004). After the subway opening, the integrated ticket system will be used with the Skytrain (after installing Smart Card Readers in all 23 Skytrain stations + 2 new Stations on the Taksin Extension). Later on, smart cards will be used for the ETA Expressway.
The only catch are the rates to be applied and revenue sharing. Therefore the public and private sectors must join together to set up a clearing house to handle this job. MRTA and Expressway Authority will be the first two customers for the Clearing House (MRTA and Expressway Authority were born from the same source). Software to handle the integrated ticket system for both agencies will be the main program for system integration. MRTA has used integrated ticket systems from Sony and Mayfair.
The clearing house will be a non-profit private company. It will apply a discount for those who go across the systems by integrated ticket system at least 2 times a day. In the future, the integrated system will be applied to BMTA buses, Chaophraya express boats, metered taxis, convenience stores and even national ID cards.
Commentary by Wisarut: AIS and Mitsui both have very good chances to win as a supplier for the integrated ticket system. AIS due to its connection with Premier Thaksin. Singtel owns about 40% of AIS so it is possible to get the smart card technology via Singtel.

Government announces 100 km mass transit system in 10 years--and says the private sector can pay for it all - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Matichon Daily, May 27, 2003
by Dr. Samart Rajpolasit (expert on transportation systems)
The Ministry of Transport and Communication (MOTC) has surprised everyone by announcing the plan to expand the subway system by 100 km more within 10 years which is definitely good news for those who live in the suburbs since this will be an alternative to buses, vans, and private cars.
Presently there are 23.5 km of Skytrain and another 20 km of subway. MOTC has asked the private sector to handle 100% of project to reduce the government budget burden. However, MOTC officers and politicians don't realize how much burden they put on the shoulders of the private sector. The mass transit business is hardly a money making business!
To give a good example, take a look at the Skytrain - 100% private with the budget of 55 billion baht while the subway has cut private investment to 20% (24 billion baht) while the government shoulder 96 billion baht (with total of 120 billion baht).
The private sector will have strong interest in such a project only if the project has a prospect to make money! There are two main variables to be considered before investing in such a project:
1) Investment funds
2) Revenue from tickets
100 km more routes will cost the private sector 176 billion baht. However, it is just the beginning since the government wants a single concession holder to deal with all Skytrain-subway systems to implement an integrated ticket system and for the concession holder to distribute income to other concession holders.
In such a case, MOTC is going to ask the private sector to take over the subway and Skytrain systems. Assume that the concession holder is buying BTSC and BMCL at the price of 70 billion baht. The bill would shooting up to 246 billion baht if you add in the 100 km of new track.
Another factor is the revenue depending on the rate and the amount of passenger. MOTC is asking for a fare lower than the current Skytrain rates by half while the government will subsidize the ticket rates for the rest. Therefore, the revenue will come from passengers and the government.
Even though it is a good policy to help the passengers by cutting expenses by half, the government must ensure that the government will keep paying the subsidies all the time no matter which parties will become the new government.
MOTC expects that the number of passengers will rise from the current 300,000 passenger a day to 2 million passenger a day after the new 100km route becomes a reality.
Assume that the average ticket price and the subsidies are 30 baht/person. The revenue will be 60 million baht a day and 21.9 billion baht a year - such a revenue is 8.9% of investment. If the private sector has to borrow to invest in such a project 6% a year and the maintenance cost 1.5% a year. The private sectors will receive the net revenue of 1.4% a year (8.9% - 1.5% -6%). In such a rate of revenue, the break even point will not be less than 70 years! No private sector can wait that long! The government must come up with a much better package to speed up the break even point which means they have to come up with the following things:
1) cheap loans - either from the local banks which have lots of savings piling up unused or international banks with cheap rates (e.g. JBIC). However, the government has to be an underwriter to ensure that companies will not default on their debts.
2) Higher and fairer ticket prices with the passenger paying the smaller part (30%) while the government subsidizes the major part (70%)
MOTC plans to get subsidies from excise taxes on luxury cars and fuel taxes which is a good idea. However, the government will have to explain to rural folks why they have to pay fuel taxes to support Bangkokians. Such a fuel tax can deepen the urban-rural divide which already has become a schism since the rural folks see no point to pay such a tax from which they gain no benefit at all. They will tell Bangkokains to pay excise taxes on luxury cars and fuel and not ask or force them to joint in such a scheme. Even if the government could pursue the rural folks to pay such taxes (at the lower rates of course), we have no idea if the revenue from the tax alone would be enough to cover subsidy expenses since the subsidies have shot up to the ten billion baht level. MOTC will have to diversify revenue sources to subsidize the ticket prices.
One way to get more revenue to subsidize the project is through land and building taxes along Subway-Skytrain routes since these locations get benefits such as higher land prices, higher rent rates, and more customers from being along the routes.
Commentary by Wisarut: Even though the land and building tax hikes for the land and building along the routes do add more revenue to subsidize the tickets, I do not think that it would be enough. After all it is the government's jobs to handle such a project no matter how much effort they put into avoiding the responsibility.
Therefore a better scheme for government support would be:
1) Central government 52% - Local government (Provincial halls) 28% - Private sector 20% (the current BMA scheme).
This will shift the burden from the central government to local governments which exercise better responsibility and are closer to the project than the central government.
2) Loan underwritten by the central government. After all, the public sector can borrow cheaper than the private sector even though the ability to obtain loans from government bonds have been limited by the Bank of Thailand (Central Bank) to 780 billion baht so that the national debt will not balloon to unmanageable levels. Loans from local bank to the government would be another alternative.
3) Custom and excise taxes on luxury cars and the higher fuel taxes collected by the local government would be the answer for the subsidies without hurting the rural folks. However, it has a loophole which needs to be plugged--that car owners can register their cars outside of Bangkok to get around the tax. Probably the tax rate differences should not be too high to cut the encouragement for tax evasion.
4) Land and build taxes--this one should be done by the local governments since they live closer to the sources of this kind of tax sources.
5) New investment packages to reduce the operating and maintenance costs for those who handle mass transit system and the related activities such as local-made rolling stock to cut the price for rolling stocks.

More on how the integration of Bangkok mass transit might happen - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from "Suriya Aiming to Expand Mass Transit System by Allowing Foreigners to buy both BTSC Skytrain and MRTA Subway," Manager Daily, May 15, 2003
Minister Suriya said 80% public investment on structure and 20% private investment scheme causes too much burden to the government and too much red tapes. Therefore, he will ask for 100% private investment--with companies with very deep pockets and strong backup to handle the projects and extensions. It would be either a joint venture with BMCL and BTSC or a takeover plus merging BMCL and BTSC into the new integrated group.
How the new company would be set up
The new player must negotiate with BTSC and BMCL (the concession holders) to integrate 2 systems into 1 system first. The 100% private concession for the integrated system will prevent collusion and fixing specifications among contractors and enable integrated ticket systems. There are at least 3 foreign investors who are very keen to invest on the integration project - Siemens AG (Germany), Mitsui (Japan), and Bombadier (Canada). The criteria for selection will be the company that offers the lowest ticket prices with least government subsidies and fastest construction of systems (100 km within 5-7 years).
For the case of subway, there will be no problem since BMCL (which holds the concession) needs new partners to help the company handle subway services. For the case of BTSC (the Skytrain company), it is quite complicated since the company needs to talk with creditors.
More excise tax on cars to pay for ticket subsidies
The only public investment needed for this project is the ticket subsidy to ensure ticket prices for a single trip will be within the 10-20 baht range to encourage passengers who do not have enough cash to pay for a 30-day pass. The subsidy funds will come from excise taxes on fuel and cars--especially luxury cars and gas-guzzling SUVs.
Director Khamroberux told the press that Bangkok needs at least 100-130 km of mass transit system within 10 years which consists of three systems which will be put under a single operator to boost passengers from the current 300,000 passengers a day (3% of daily trips) to 1.5-21 million passengers a day (15-20% of daily trips):
1) BTSC Skytrain and extensions (Samrong and Taksin)
2) MRTA Subway -> Blue line and extensions (Hua Lamphong Bang Wah)
3) MRTA Subway -> Orange line (Bangkapi - Thai Cultural Center, and Thai Cultural Center - Wang Boorapha)
For the case of the Hopewell revival, the government will have to invest on this section so as to connect NBIA with downtown Bangkok and feed passengers from the suburbs to the Subway and Skytrain.
What would be built when...
There will be 2 phases for the integration of Bangkok mass transit--10 year for each phase, needing 176 billion baht for the first phase (2001-2011) with the investment rate of 21 billion baht a year and another 210 billion baht for the second phase (2011-2020).
The 1st phase (2001-2011) would consist of
1) Red line (Airport Link -> Phyathai - NBIA) - with interchange to Subway at Phetburi and Skytrain at Phayathai -> should be done in 2004 if started in 2001 -> but starting in late 2003 -> so it will be done in late 2007
2) Red line (Northern-Eastern Commuter -> Bangsue - Phyathai, Northern Commuter Hua Lamphong - Bangsue, and Bangsue - Rangsit)
3) Southern Extension of Blue line (Hua Lamphong - Bang Wah, Bang Wah - Bang Khae)
4) Skytrain Extensions (Onnut - Samrong, Mochit - Ratchayothin, Saphan Taksin - Taksin Intersection - Talad Ploo - Phetkasem)
The 2nd phase (2011-2021) would consist of
1) Red line (Southwestern Commuter -> Hua Lamphong - Klong Sarn - Wongwian Yai - Southern Bangkok Transportation center, Southwestern Commuter -> Southern Bangkok Transportation center - Mahachai Northwestern commuter -> Bangsue - Rama VI - Talingchan)
2) MRTA Northern Ring (Bangsue - Bang Pho - Charan Sanitwonse - Tha Phra)
MRTA Southern Ring (Tha Phra - Klong Toei) MRTA Northern extension (Bangsue - Wong Sawang - Khae Rai - Phra Nang Klao Bridge)
3) Skytrain Extensions (Samrong - Samut Prakarn, Ratchayothin - Donmueang, National Stadium - Phra Pinklao Bridge)
4) MRTA Orange Line (Minburi - Thai Cultural Center, Thai Cultural Center - Wang Boorapha)
The 3rd Phase (after 2021 - long term development) would consist of
1) MRTA Northwestern extension (Phra Nang Klao -Bang Yai - Bang Buathong)
2) Skytrain extension (Donmuang - Lam Lookka)
3) MRTA Orange line (Wang Boorapha - Rat Boorana - Samrong)
4) MRTA Yellow Line (Lad Phrao - Bang Kapi - Hua Mark - Sri Nakharin - Samrong)

Makkasan development and the Subway-Skytrain network - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Manager Weekly, May 16, 2003
Developing SRT land at Makkasan for a transport hub
Transportation Minister Suriya is pushing the 400-rai land development project around Makkasan area very hard by asking Premier Thaksin to be the chairman of the project so that the auspicious stone can be laid by the end of 2003 (preferably December 5, 2003--HM The King's birthday). This project is for the passengers who are going to and from NBIA. [BTW: The Makkasan area being referred to is the huge railroad junkyard in the heart of the city that has laid idle for many years. It is easily visible when driving along the elevated expressways in the heart of the city.]
Even though there is much talk about SRT land development project at Makkasan to create a new business center, it is not a firm project yet. It is just an attempt to gather support to realize the project. As the NBIA is heading to becoming a reality, this Makkasan project got a new start since Minister Suriya considers that this project will have very strong benefit for Thailand, not just Bangkok. To prevent further false starts, Minister Suriya is asking Premier Thaksin to become the chairman for the project so that the first stone will be laid by the end of 2003.
Minister Suriya agreed that a high speed railway (or at least an electric railway with standard gauge) is a critical link between NBIA and downtown Bangkok. Without this critical link, Thailand will at the heavy loss of tourist income, revenue from the rent of a business center, and foreign direct investment.
The Makkasan land development project is a megaproject on SRT land of 400 rai (160 acre) with a business center, shopping plaza, 5-star hotel, service apartments, offices for rent, trade center, plaza entertainment center, and a transitional point between Skytrain and Subway as well as providing transportation between downtown and eastern suburbs.
The government is asking the private sector to handle the project or at least express their viewpoint for the project since the government has no experience handling this kind of project. Bureaucracy has prevented the government from dealing with this kind of business. Good planning for gather the private sectors with specialized business skills will ensure the success and benefit maximization of this megaproject.
MOTC will ask Land and House (a local real estate giant) to handle either hotel or service apartments, invite Major Cineplex, ECV, and SF Cinema to handle the entertainment business, and ask Central Group, The Mall and Robinson to handle the trading and shopping center.
Pushing the Skytrain and subway
Minister Suriya also trying to push Subway expansion forward since it is much more flexible than the Skytrain. It needs less land expropriation (despite the higher price tag for construction). Only in the suburbs, the land outside Ratchadaphisek inner ring road, and Skytrain extensions will it be elevated to save construction cost.
To attract more passengers, integrated tickets linking BTSC Skytrain, MRTA subway and SRT commuters and the Airport Link are critical.
The new concession holder who wants to handle this integration project will have to pay about 200 billion baht (US$ 4-5 billion) to take over BTSC Skytrain and BMCL Subway (paid to BMCL via MRTA). If the new concession holder want to buy the Skytrain, it is quite easy even--daily passengers still far from the target of 600,000 passengers a day despite of steadily increasing number of passengers (just breaking 300,000 passengers a day).
Minister Suriya also assigned the Traffic Office to discuss with Canadian Bombadier, German Siemens, and Japanese Mitsui about the plans for private investment on system integration, new routes, and the payment to the government. The one who offers the best deal (higher concession payments, lower government subsidies and investment, ticket prices within the 10-20 baht range) will get the new concession while retaining the local concession holders as minor partners. Government could help the company by subsidizing the ticket price at 1-2 baht/km/trip, and assisting with land expropriation.
The subsidy will be funded by a fuel tax (20 satang/l excise tax) and automobile tax hike--especially for the gas guzzling or luxurious types (more than 100% hike). This will deter people from using private cars. Ideally, the usage rate for railed mass transit system should be 30% of trips in Bangkok (it is 70% in Japan). Presently in Thailand only 3% of trips used railed mass transit.
New regional hubs for air travel, highway revamp, and high-speed trains
Before the liberalization of air travel by adding more flights, and allowing more domestic competition, new regional hubs are critical -> the northern hub at Chiang Mai, the southern hub at Phuket and the new northeastern hub at either Ubon Ratchathanee or Udorn Thanee. The northern hub at Chiangmai need a night safari to rival Singapore, a cultural center, and a good mass transit system from downtown Chiang Mai to the airport.
Northern and Southern highways must be expanded and the motorways must be closed routes for traffic outside the main connections to prevent accidents.
The government is considering a high speed rail link between Bangkok to Nakon Ratchasima after the staggering death toll along the route between Saraburi and Nakhon Ratchasima during the New Year and Songkran festival... and for cutting down Chat Phatthana (a political party with a stronghold at Nakhon Ratchasima).
Commentary by Wisarut: If the government is really serious about a high speed rail link, it needs to deal with the following:
1) invest at least 100-200 billion baht to attract either Hitachi, Bombadier or Siemens to invest and set up a new facility to deal with such kind of project.
2) Privatize SRT NOW - and keep the good men from SRT to deal with the new railway company with higher salary while getting rid of the drones and the corrupt who suck the blood from SRT.
3) Issue more government bonds to finance the projects - possibly 1 trillion baht (the same level as annual budget for Thailand) to back up all the projects (Red line commuters, SRT privatization, Mass Transit Integration, and Makkasan Land development).
Commentary by Wisarut (continuing with Governor Samak's ring road dream): If BMA is still interested to support the 82.5 km ring railway project (with 37 stations) even after Governor Samak has stepped down from BMA office, BMA officers needs to deal with the following:
1) 43 billion baht plus additional cost to speed up the project from 18 years (the time JBIC has recommended) to 5 years (the time Governor Samak has suggested) is a must. 41 billion baht for the route, 2 billion for an underwater tunnel across the Chaophraya at Phra Padaeng-Poochao Samingphrai, and additional money for land expropriation around Ngam Wongwan and Bang Kapi. Probably 50-60 billion baht will be more realistic cost.
2) The speedy settlement for investment plans is also a must.
3) A ring railway without interchanges with other systems (Skytrain, Subway, and railway) as well as the links to the shopping malls will be meaningless. Therefore, Skytrain extensions to Kaset and Samrong should be put into the package as well.

Underground transport to get 100bn baht (Like the Post and Nation, Business Day now links now expire after one day and we have been unable to find the latest link for this article) - Business Day, May 16, 2003
A little background: Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit has been revealing grand plans for Bangkok mass transit this week (like the Bangkok transit merger, promises of shorter waits at traffic lights, and Suriya wants 100km of tracks in 10 years). At the same time, the opposition plans to censure and impeach him. Suriya has responded by threatening to name names of opposition members involved in graft at the new airport.

Bangkok transit merger - You read it here first! - May 13, 2003
The Nation has a story on the dream to unite Bangkok mass transit systems (SURIYA'S VISION: Super merger planned - The Nation, May 13, 2003): The proposal entails merging the skytrain with the subway project, expanding the rail network by 80 kilometres and awarding a new concession to an international bidder to run the entire system.
Regular readers will recognize this plan as similar to one in a story we ran in March from a Thai newspaper (HK New World plans to take over Thai mass transit Thansetthakij - Vol. 23, No. 1780, March 6-8, 2003). As far as we can tell, this was never reported in the English-language press until now.
Commentary by Wisarut Bholsithi
: Minister Suriya may want to redeem himself since his parents (the founders of Thai Sumit Autopart which has headquarters near the Southern Gate of NBIA on Bangna-Trat Highway) are among the many lobbyists that helped sink the Lavalin Project.
Even though it is indeed a good thing to integrate Skytrain and Subway into a single system, there are lots of issues to be ironed out before selling both system to the foreign firm.
1) Ask foreign firms to get local partners so as to reduce tension between local people and foreign firms. It would invoke the nationalistic reaction by granting concessions to foreign firm without local partners. Italian Thai Development will be definitely one of local partners since the firm has worked on both the Skytrain and Subway. Ch. Karnchang has been forfeited their rights to become a partner since the firm has strong connections with the opposition party (the Democrats).
2) Any foreign firm must have deep pockets and strong financial support to ensure the successful integration and expansion of systems. It takes 100 billion baht to dig the 20-km tunnels for the subway and 50 billion baht to set up the 23.5-km of Skytrain tracks and stations. What about the 28-km underground Orange line?
3) Technology Transfer. The firm that offers technology transfers to MRTA and BTSC will have a very good chance to become the winner.
4) German (Siemens), Japanese, and Mainland China companies have the best chances to compete for the concession.
4.1) German has Siemens which has experience of laying the backbones for the Skytrain and Subway so any firms must follow what Siemens has done to ensure the system compatibility.
4.2) Japanese has JBIC which grants very cheap loan to MRTA. Japanese contractors and subway firms are very keen to work on subway projects. If a Japanese firm is asked to use the local content to implement subway projects, they have plenty of Japanese assembly lines and factories in the industrial estates around Bangkok and Samut Prakarn to handle production.
4.3) Mainland China has Hong Kong which has trained the workers of BTSC and MRTA and Shanghai which has built subway systems--with partners from Siemens. Mainland China also have pretty deep pockets and cheap engineers to handle the project.

Money squandered by `poor preparation' - Bangkok Post, April 16, 2003
The majority of large-scale state infrastructural projects are poorly managed from the start, causing huge economic and social losses to the country, according to National Economic and Social Development Board Secretary-General Chakramon Phasukvanich.
Wisarut Bholsithi comments: Politicians and capitalists involved in megaprojects employ propaganda such as hiring journalists who strongly favor a project and have strong prejudices against NGOs as well as mudslinging against environmentalists in NGOs while failing to do project feasibility studies. You can see the results of such propaganda on local webboards where local people opposing projects and NGOs are denounced as "Luddians" and "Traitors."
More on the Suvanabhumi Airport and the Hopewell Project

Comments on government mass transit policy - April 9, 2003
We had not even planned to point out Monday's article with rather general comments by Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit about how the government supports mass transit (Suriya wants expansion of rail network - Bangkok Post, April 7, 2003 - ...To speed up construction, he wanted the private sector to be the sole investor, which would result in quicker completion due to the lack of red tape, he said.). Private sector investment has not worked for the Skytrain and continuing opposition to public funds being used is still holding up the final legal status of the Skytrain Taksin extension. However, 2b's Wisarut Bholsithi, had some interesting comments on the flaws of relying on 100% private investment for mass transit:
I do not buy the policy even though it may sound good. 100% private funds? It is just shifting the burden from the public to private sector. Even worse, creditors (domestic and international alike) would increase the price tag for loans (interest rates for loans) for the private sector compared to loans to the public sector. Failure to obtain loans would kill mass transit projects (one of the factors that killed Hopewell, Lavalin, and has crippled the Skytrain). If the current government really wants to encourage the private sector to invest in mass transit, it must promote related investments to back up mass transit in addition to measures to cut automobile usage. Tax incentives and cheap loans for mass transit investment (with the government agencies acting as underwriters) are critical to ensure a good return for mass transit investment.
Even though the government would like to cut down the public burden, Premier Thaksin and company must take these measures to empower the private sector to handle mass transit. Failure to do so will cost the country dearly. Also: After the SRT settlement with Central Patthana, as well as those who rent SRT land along Ratchadaphisek, SRT should be privatized--even though it requires very tedious negotiation with SRT's union (the largest labor union in Thailand).

Fulfilling the dream of an electrified train - Commentary by Wisarut Bholsithi, March 23, 2003
SRT prefers to electrify the elevated meter gauge rail (for the Hopewell revival--see above article) instead of constructing a new pair of elevated rails to fit into the standard gauge. The electrification of the meter gauge would fulfill the dream of Prince Purachat Jaiyakorn (AKA Krommaphra Kamphaengphet Akkhrayayoithin - 1882-1936), the first Siamese director of Royal Siamese Railways (1917-1926) and the minister of Transportation and Economic Affairs during the time of King Vajiravut and Princprajadhipok (1912-1932).
After the successful electrification of the Paknam Railway in September 1926 and the eastern part of Mahachai Railway (Klong Sarn - Wat Singh) in 1927-28, Prince Purachat Jaiyakorn asked King Prajadhipok (a half younger brother of Prince Purachat) to approve the electrification project for RSR in 1928.
However, King Prajadhipok declined the proposal of Prince Purachat since Siam was still in economic hard times after the Great War and debts from King Vajiravut. Economic measures to cut the budget included cutting the army from 10 divisions to 4 (and 2 divisions later), cutting the number of provinces from 79 to 70, dissolving the Wild Tiger Corps, downgrading the Ministry of Navy to a Department of Navy by merging the Ministry of War and Ministry of Navy into the Ministry of Defense in 1931, cutting the annual royal allowance from 9 million to 6 million ticals (and 3 million ticals later on), moving Siam gold reserves from Paris to London to save on maintenance costs, and cutting Monthols (Circles) from 18 to 14 (and 10 circles later on). [Monthol (Circle) was a set of provinces -> according to the Administration Act of Ror Sor 116 (AD 1897). Monthols were dissolved by the Administration for the Kingdom of Siam BE 2476 (January 1934).]
If the electrification project of Prince Purachat Jaiyakorn had been completed, we would have the electrification from Hua Lamphong to Ayutthaya (and to Lopburi and Khorat later on), Bang Sue to Nakhon Pathom (and Phetburi later on), Bangkok Noy to Talingchan, and Chitladda (there was no Yommaraj station until 1936) to Chachoengsao. At that time Thailand had a population of only 11 million and 18 million in 1950. The baby boom would not start until the late 1950's. - from microfilm at the National Archives (King Prajadhopok SetMinistry of Transportation and Economic SectionRailways)

The need for the southern section of the Outer Ring Road - Commentary by Wisarut Bholsithi, March 23, 2003
Demands for the southern section of the Outer Ring Road are increasing as construction of the new airport is progressing. The southern section of the Outer Ring Road will allow people from Thonburi and the western side of the Chao Phraya River to approach the new airport without going over the Rama IX Bridge which is now overburdened and in need of repairs due to heavy traffic from trucks as well as other vehicles. Even if the Industrial Ring Road becomes a reality, there will still be a demand for the southern section of the Outer Ring Road to relieve congestion on the Rama IX Bridge and allow a major repair of the Rama IX Bridge. Rama III Bridge is too dangerous to use by ordinary drivers due to the steep slope of the bridge which has caused many accidents.

News you won't find in the English-language papers: HK New World plans to take over Thai mass transit - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Thansetthakij - Vol. 23, No. 1780, March 6-8, 2003
New World Group from Hong Kong is making a move on Thai mass transit systems by sending a member of the New World Board of Directors to be a new member of the BTSC Board and negotiating with Pliw Triwitsawawet (CEO of BMCL) to purchase 25% of BMCL stock. After turning BTSC debts into equity, New World Group will become a new major shareholder of BTSC at once. New World Group has a plan to interconnect and integrate all three mass transit systems (BTSC, MRTA, and SRT) into one system. At the same time, Hopewell is negotiating with New World to join the deal.
Changing the representative on the board
New World Group from Hong Kong ( and had changed their representative on the BTSC Board of Directors from Mr. Michael Pai to Dr. Cheng Kar-Shun (AKA Henry Cheng Kar-Shun--one of the highest administrators in the New World Group). Such a move has indicated that this Hong Kong group is going to invest in Bangkok mass transit.
After becoming a major shareholder in BTSC, New World Group has strong interest to invest in extensions. So far, Dr. Cheng had several meetings with Governor Samak, Dr. Tahnong Phitthaya (Economic Advisor of Premier Thaksin assigned to take charge of mass transit system extensions). Dr. Cheng is inviting Pliw Triwitsawawet (CEO of BMCL) to discuss a plan to purchase 25% of stock in BMCL. Pliw declined to tell Thansetthakij correspondents about the progress on the integration of subway (METRO) and skytrain. Anusak Intharaphuwasak (local agent of Hopewell (Thailand) Co.Ltd.) has come to see Dr. Cheng to discuss the feasibility of integrating all three networks.
All about Dr. Cheng
Dr. Cheng is 55 years old, graduated with an MBA and Phd. in Law (Honorable), and an important person in New World Group since he used to hold the position of General Manager in New World Development Co. Ltd., CEO of New World Infrastructure Co.Ltd. and General Manager of New World China Land Co. Ltd. New World Group maintains New World Development Co. Ltd. as a flagship company. This Hong Kong conglomerate has business in real estate, infrastructure, mass transit systems, services [hotels], and telecommunications - with total assets of HK $130 billion (about 650 billion baht).
How New World became involved in BTSC
New World Group became a shareholder in BTSC in 2000 by transforming debts into equity via CTF Resources Co. Ltd. (New World Group's Subsidiary). By the end of 2002, CTF Resources held 17.27% of BTSC shares. After transforming debts into equity, CTF resources will hold 20% more shares in BTSC (total 37.27%). Another 20% debt-to-equity transformation will come up this year and CTF Resources will hold another 10% (the other 10% will be held by Credit First Boston). If this 20% debt to equity transformation is successful, New World Group will become a major shareholder in BTSC (with 47.27%).
New World group is an old alliance that includes Mongkhon Kanchanaphak (AKA Zhi Ming - father of Anant and Khiree Kanchanaphak) and Mongkhon (aka New World Group) has been asked to be a financial supporter of BTSC.
The top five shareholders of BTSC at the end of 2002 were:
1) Thanayong PCL - 28.21%
2) CTF Resources - 17.27%
3) Credit First Boston [Hong Kong] - 12.67%
4) Italian Thai Development PCL - 10.54%
5) Citibank Nominees [Singapore] - 3.82%
More on restructuring
BTSC still has to deal with a 40 billion baht debt restructure. Even though Khiree asked creditors to extend the debt period to 15 years, creditors said an 8 year extension period is enough. The debt restructure plan has a provision to transform debts into equity since the BTSC balance sheet is still at a loss. [Note: BTSC debt restructure has strong ties to debt restructure to Thanayong PCL in which CEO Khiree still holds a majority share.]
Amorn Kingchaweng (CEO of Krungthep Thanakhom--the financial arm of BMA, 99% headed by BMA) said that the committee for the construction of BTSC extensions has invited investors from Japan, Hong Kong, and Europe--including New World Group--to invest in the extension project.
Amorn also said that the investor groups (especially New World Group) are going to negotiate with BMCL PCL so as to have a joint venture on the METRO system and the extensions to integrate the systems since the Thaksin government has a policy to integrate mass transit systems. Initially, BMCL and BTSC did not submit plans to extend the Skytrain to Taksin Intersection and Samrong. Later, BMA set up Krunthep Thanakhom to handle the extension projects and Krungthep Thanakhom signed the preliminary agreement with Shanghai metro and BTSC in June 2001. However there is no progress, so Krungthep Thanakhon has to invite new investors which includes New World Group.
Commentary by Wisarut: Integration of the two systems is great. However, BMCL would prefer Japanese investors so as to obtain soft and easy loans from JBIC. Ch. Karnchang also has strong ties with Japanese construction giants. However, Japanese contractors should come up with state-of-the-art methods for tunnel digging into Rattanakosin Island and Thonburi. If New World Group comes up with a way to handle the skytrain and subway (METRO), especially in the delicate areas in the Bangkok city center, they would be a serious contender to Japanese construction giants. More on the Bangkok Skytrain, the Bangkok Subway, and the Hopewell Project.

How to boost investment in Bangkok mass transit - translated and summarized from local Thai newspapers by Wisarut Bholsithi, February 27, 2003
The Traffic Office is trying to speed up the Skytrain extensions by changing the investment scheme to ask for more public support for private investment - with profit-guaranteeing ticket prices. The current 2 lines with a total distance of 40 km is not adequate. Bangkok needs to have at least 120 km of mass transit systems.
Director Kamroblux Suratsawadee told the press that the Traffic Office is drafting a new master plan to extend the mass transit system to meet a target of 360 km within 20 years. So far, it has taken about 10 years for BTSC and MRTA to finish 40 km of Skytrain and Subway which is too slow to meet passenger demands. MOTC Minister Suriya has asked the Traffic Office to study ways to boost incentives for the private sector to invest in mass transit systems since it is more efficient than building more roads, setting up more flyovers, and digging more tunnels combined.
According to preliminary studies, the Central Government needs to construct at least 120 km of Skytrain and Subways in Bangkok and vicinities to meet the current demand. Therefore, government agencies need to call new bids for new lines and extensions with the central government guaranteeing profits on ticket prices (e.g. even though the cost for each passenger to take a trip is about 200 baht, passengers will pay only 15-30 baht or possibly 50-60 baht). The rest will covered by subsidies to pay to concession holders--energy funds, fuel taxes, the fines from traffic violators--to ensure profitable investments and reduce the pressure from the public sector to handle investment on mass transit systems. The tickets should also be joint tickets to boost passengers. The studies will be done in the next few months and after that the Traffic Office will submit the results to the Land Traffic Management Committee to review and then deliver to Minister Suriya to sign. If Minster Suriya approves the plan, it will boost the construction of more mass transit lines. However, the bus route must be readjusted to feed new systems, more park and ride facilities must be built, and traffic restrictions implemented (such as one-way roads) to encourage more passengers on the Skytrain and Subway and discourage those who ride private cars.
Commentary by Wisarut: If the government and the cabinet are really serious about encouraging public sector support for private investment on mass transit systems, the government should do the following things to cut the investing and operating costs:
1) Encourage the owners of Japanese and German automobile assembly lines in Lad Krabang Paknam and Bang Poo Industrial Estate to invest on the assembly lines to produce local-made rolling stock as well as other electric parts with supervision from Japanese and German producers (e.g. Mitsubishi Heavy Industry, Siemens AG, or so).
2) There should be incentives for local and foreign investors to supply electrical and electronic parts of mass transit systems (such as elevators, escalators, belt lines, telecommunication systems, power lines, plasma TVs, CCTVs, and so on).
3) Give more incentives for local steel producers (e.g. Siam Steel, Siam Cement Steel, Sahaviriya Steel) to produces and supply more steel--both structure for concrete reinforcement and the standard-gauge rails.
4) Cut red tape and boost investment on foreign investment on mass transit systems with joint ventures with local partners. Chinese, Japanese, and German investors are asking BOI to clarify the investment plans on mass transit systems.
5) Encourage local contractors (ITD, KPV, and maybe later, Ch. Karnchang) to invest in the mass transit system. Don't make ITD feel very disappointed again.
6) Encourage the local bankers (public and private banks) to grant more long term loans to those who handle mass transit system business (MRTA, BTSC, BMCL and future private investors ) and related businesses with the government underwriting so that those loan cannot become non-performing loans.
7) Discourage those who like to drive along the ways that mass transit systems pass by turning roads into one-way. This option carries serious risks of political unpopularity.
8) Find places along the routes to set up park and ride facilities.
9) If possible, there should be feeder bus stations at the piers along Chao Phraya river.
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