Master Plan News – November-December 2003

MASTER PLAN NEWS 2003 November-December

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


Suriya pushing cabinet to invest 518 billion baht on mass transit - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Manager Daily, February 18, 2004 & Bangkok Biznews, February 18, 2004
Suriya is inviting the cabinet to ride subway on February 23 at Chatuchak Station and concluding the plan to invest 518.448 billion baht to make North-South, East-West connections within Bangkok and vincinity at the same time. On the other hand, Suyriya decided to scrap the Yellow Line out since he was under heavy attack since there were very few passengers for the line (See:
The Yellow Line--conceived and aborted within two hours after the press notes it goes by property holdings of ministers, Than Setthakij, Volume 24, No. 1879, February 15-18, 2004). Furthermore, he has asked the Traffic Policy Office to negotiate with BTSC and BMCL about the plan to buy back the company with a budget of 75 billion baht. The negitiation will be settled by 2006.
Minister Suriya told the press that he is going to invite the cabinet to ride subway at 9am on February 23. After that, Premier Thaksin will consider the plan for the 6-year mass transit system network (2004-2009) around Bangkok and vicinity.
The networks will consist of 7 lines with a total price tag of 518.448 billion baht with total distance of 248 km -> 47 km subway, at grade 53 km and 147 km elevated way. The additional price is due to the budget for purchasing BMCL and BTSC--25 billion baht for BMCL and 50 billion baht for BTSC.
Funds for the 7 lines are 443.448 billion baht--297.300 billion baht for construction, 146.148 billion baht for systems and services, and 75 billion baht for nationalization.
The funding plan will come from the Ministry of Finance. It will be in the form of a 30-year Wayuphak mutual fund with annual payment of 4% guaranteed to investors and annual payment could go up to 6.71%. After 30 years, the principle of 579.286 billion baht will be paid until there is only 14.496 billion baht outstanding. The government will take charge on the annual interest payment of 20.325 billion baht --total 444.087 billion baht--with an annual interest payment of 14.8 billion baht.
The details of the 7 lines to connent 4 cardinal directions (N-E-W-S) with total distance of 248 km are:
SRT Section: Total Investment - 125.958 billion baht
Construction - 69.404 billion baht and systems and services - 56.554 billion baht
1) North-South Commuter Red Line (Rangsit - Mahachai) 65 km -> at grade 31 km, elevated 34 km. The elevated section is from Rangsit to Wongwian Yai and the section at grade will be the Mahachai Line The construction would start on February 2005 and be ready for service in June 2009. The estimated number of passengers is 787,000 passengers/day.
2) East-West Pink Airport Link (Taling Chan - NBIA) 50 km -> 1km underground section for Chitladda Palace Section, 23 km at grade for the section from Hua Mark to Lad Krabang, Yommaraj - Phyathai and Talingchan to Bang Son - 26 elevated sections for the Eastern line. The construction will start in February 2005 and will be ready for service on October 2008. The estimated number of passengers is 559,000 passengers/day. BMA Section: Total Investment 83.743 billion baht. Construction 54.661 baht and System & Services 29.082 billion baht.
3) Dark Green Line (12-km Saphan Mai - Mochit, 6.7-km Saphan Taksin - Bang Wah) 18.8 km - all elevated. Construction will start in May 2004 and ready for service in November 2008. The estimated number of passengers is 677,000 passengers/day.
4) Light Green Line (6.8-km Phran Nok - National Stadium, 16.8-km Onnut - Samut Prakarn) 23.6 km - 6 km underground for Rattanakosin Island section and 17.6 km elevated for Onnut - Samrong section and Phrannok Section construction will start start in April 2004 and be ready for service in April 2010. The estimated number of passengers is 649,000 passengers/day. MRTA Section: Total Investment 233.748 billion baht. Construction 173.236 billion baht and systems & serivce 60.512 billion baht.
5) Blue Ring (13.8-km Bangsue - Bang Pho - Charansitwongse - Tha Phra, 13.1-km Hua Lamphong - Tha Phra - Bang Khae) - 26.9 km - 4.8 km underground for Rattnakosin Island, 22.1 km elevated along
Charansanitwongse Road and Phekasem Road. Construction will start in May 2005 and be ready for service in December 2009. Construction cost 65.895 billion baht. The estimated number of passengers is 992,000 passengers/day.
6) Purple Line (Bang Yai - Rat Boorana) 40 km - 14.5 km underground from Kiakkai to Mahaisawan 25.5 km elevated for the rest. Construction will start in May 2005 and be ready for service in February 2010. The estimated number of passengers is 461,000 passengers/day. Construction cost 94.585 billion baht.
7) Orange Line (Bang Bumru - Bang kapi) - 24 km - 21 km underground (Lum Salee - Sang Hee) and 3 km elevated way (Bang Kapi - Lum Salee, Sung Hee - Bang Bumru). Construction will start in May 2005 and ready for service in February 2010. The estimated number of passengers is 316,000 passengers/day. Construction cost 73.268 billion baht.
The seven lines will have 17.92% economic benefit in 30 years and cut down the loss due to energy bills and environmental harm by 4.9 trillion baht. The Yellow Line will be suspended for a while.

Speeding up nationalization for Skytrain and subway--private sector refuses to sell at par - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Prachachart Thurakij, February 12, 2004
N-Park and Ch. Karnchang refuse to sell BMCL stock to MRTA at par and push the IPO (with consultants from Financial Security and Phatthara Security) ahead even though Suriya is forcing Praphat and Pliew to conclude the deal. The deal is causing lots of headaches since the government is supposed to privatize, not nationalize the state enterprises.
N-Park and Ch. Karnchang said if the government really wants to nationalize the project, they have to pay at premium which includes the 25 year benefit. This pushes the stock upward from 100 baht/share to 600 baht/share--not just 200 baht/share. Now, foreign investors with suitcases of cash in hard currency are waiting to purchase BMCL stocks at any time and the major shareholders agree to sell some stocks to foreign investors at premium.
The Traffic Policy Office said the deal will be concluded in 6 months to integrate both systems, but not at 600 baht/share since it is too much for the government since they would need at least 51 billion baht to buy back--and if all the additional costs are included, 200 billion baht which is definitely too much.
There are three options for the deal:
1) tuning assets into equity
2) stock purchasing to raise the government stake to be the major shareholders (51%) while leaving the other 49% to the private sector
3) deal collapses
The Traffic Policy Office said they refuse to buy BTSC unless BTSC and creditors lower the price which has to include debts. The government will wait until BTSC can separate the business out of the restructured debts to start the deal.
The BTSC debt restructuring is nearly done to be ready to sign the restructure deal in four months before offering an IPO. However the long-delayed extensions will diminish the price of BTSC shares even though the number of passengers is steadily climbing to over 300,000 a day. Speeding up the approval to allow BMA to invest in the project and push the stock price upward.
Commentary by Wisarut: If the government wants to purchase both BMCL and BTSC, 51% major shareholding is fine since it allows the private sector to join in the new company and it costs the government less.
Earlier:
Ch. Karnchang pushing the price for selling BMCL upward - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Thai Post, February 4, 2004

Three temples and two schools within proposed expropriation area - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Thairath, February 14, 2004 and Matichon, February 14, 2004
During a seminar on Sri Rat-Dao Khanong Expressway at Maenam Riverside on February 13, there were 800 representatives of local villagers who attended the seminar with protest signs. Representatives from Epsilon Co. Ltd. (one of the expressway consultants) explained there are three proposed routes for Sri Rat -Dao Khanong expressway
1) from Chancharoneras Road (North-South Road) to Rama 3 T-Intersection and then going across Chao Phraya to Dao Khanong. This line would go along Chancharoneras Road with no need for land expropriation.
2) Chan Road and Charoengrat Road and then deviating from the first route to go across the Chaophraya to Dao Khanong. This one has a shorter route and the bridge will be shorter due to narrower river width. [Note: Interestingly enough, the Expressway Authority refuses to give details about land expropriation for this route.]
3) Chan Road and Charoengrat Road and then going across Chao Phraya to connect with the first stage Expressway at Suksawat.
However, there will be another seminar on April 25 to decide which route is the best route with the least the detrimental impact.
The head of Univillar Village [these were the people protesting] said the second route will need the land expropriation and the Expressway Authority refuses to reveal the information about the second route at all--even though they did gave information about the first and third route.
A member of Bangkok City Council of Bang Kholaem District said he and representatives from villages around Rama 3 area will ask the Expressway Authority and Traffic Policy Office to scrap the second route since that route would please the Montien Riverside Hotel owners along Chaophraya River at the expense of villagers.
There are three temples which the second option strikes through--Wat Chan Nai, Wat Chan Nok, Wat Inbunjoing, and the other two schools around that area.
Commentary by Wisarut: The Expressway Authority seems not to have learned from the Ban Krua saga at all...


The Yellow Line--conceived and aborted within two hours after the press notes it goes by property holdings of ministers
- translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Than Setthakij, Volume 24, No. 1879, February 15-18, 2004

[Ed.: This is the kind of hilarious story of political intrigue that is never reported in English. Thanks to Wisarut for tracking it down. This case is also a good example of why international planning bodies and lenders tend to discourage the construction of fixed mass transit systems in developing countries--because routes are often based on political considerations.]

The Yellow Line (Bang Kapi - Sri Nakharin Samrong) with a price tag of 32.2 billion baht is very abnormal since it passes through the front gate of Minister Suriya's palace, Minister Wathana's palace, as well as Suriya's factories. The government pushed this line to be studied in the 1st stage, even though many experts said this line is not as financially viable as the other seven lines.

The Yellow line starts at Bang Kapi Intersection and intersects with the Orange line at Lam Salee Intersection and then goes along Sri Nakharin up to Sri Thepha Intersection. After that, the line goes along Thapharak road to end up at Samrong Station of BTSC. Total distance will be 22 km with a price tag of more than 32.2 billion baht.

The experts and MRTA Governor said this Yellow line is not as viable as the other seven lines since this route runs only in the Eastern-Southern suburbs. Even though there is traffic congestion at Sri Nakharin, it is happening only in the morning and evening. The estimated number of passengers for this line is thus about 80,000 a day. If there are very few passengers in the afternoon, it will not be worthy to invest at all. This line also not in the 6-year masterplan.

This line also passes the suburb villages where Minister Suriya's family lives (Number 30, and 78, Sin Kao Village) and the village where Minister Watthana Muang Suk's family lives. Even the plan to shorten the Orange Line and modify the terminal to end up at Bang Bumru Railway Station has political implications--to please Premier Thaksin and former Premier Banharn.

Minister Suriya also asked the Traffic Policy Office on February 12, 2004 to study the Yellow Line to relieve the traffic jam at Sri Nakharin Road and increase more passengers for the mass transit system. Lum Salee Station of Orange Line, Huamark Station of Airport Link, and Samrong Station of Dark Green line must become interchange stations to boost passengers. Traffic Policy Office will hire students to make a survey on the demands for this Yellow Line at the intersections along the route.

The Yellow Line would use a 3-car combination instead of 6-8 cars to cut down expense. 6-10 car combination will be used only when demand picks up. Even though this line is not for the shorterm financial and economic gain, it is worthy to be under consideration for the long term.

Correspondents from Than Setthakij were asking the MOTC secretariat about Yellow line issue at 2 PM on February 13, 2004. They got the response from the secretary at 4 PM that "Minister Suriya has cancelled the study on the Yellow Line - ask Traffic Policy Office for the details!"

Minister Suriya also confirmed this cancellation by making a direct call to the editor of Than Setthakij at 5 PM. Minister Suriya said this Yellow Line has estimated passengers of not more than 80,000 passengers a day. This line also has nothing to do with his house at Sin Kao village, Sri Nakharin Road.

Feeder busses for communities without mass transit--car exclusion zones planned for the future - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Matichon, February 10, 2004
Mr Khumroblux Suratsawadee from the Traffic Policy Office told the correspondent after the discussion that the area around Ratchadaphisek Ring Road (113 Sq. km) will have the mass transit systems while the area beyond the Ring Road which are not closed to the upcoming mass transit systems will have air-conditioned feeder buses to cover the systems. The ticket rate for mass transit line will be 10 + 1.8-2 baht/km -> up to 30 baht.
All the nonairconditioned will be replaced by the air-conditioned versions with a price tag of 4-5 baht for each trip. The EURO2 Air-conditioned buses will be the main feeders.
There will be 11 communities around Bangkok to be the new centers according to the studies from AIT: Bang Sai (Ayutthaya), Bang Pa In (Ayutthaya), Thayaburi (Eastern Pathum Thani - including Rangsit), Lum Lookka (Eastern Pathum Thani), Lad Lumkaeo (Western Pathum Thani), Minburi (Bangkok), Lad Krabang (Bangkok), Bang Plee (Samut Prakarn), Bang Khun Thian (Thonburi), Talingchan (Thonburi), and Bang Buathong (Western Nonthaburi). All of them will not be covered by the mass transit systems--thus feeder buses are a must to connect with the lines.
After all the mass transit systems are done, the area around the Ring Road will become a traffic restriction area. Private car owners must pay heavy tolls, have expensive special licenses, have special parking licenses to enter into the area in the same way as Tokyo Municipal and Singapore have. [Ed.: This was continuously proposed in the early-1990s, but was never implemented--mainly because of unpopularity and that existing mass transit was not sufficient to handle the increased passenger load.]
Commentary by Wisarut: Hope that this plan will work to fund the stillborn mass transit fund which has not been started yet due to conflicts about the taxing scheme and the bonds to finance the fund.
The feeder buses for KL Putra-Star system are not well regarded due to an irregular schedule and poor treatment of passengers. Hope that the feeder buses will not repeat the same bad example--even though the feeder buses from the private sector are the most likely candidates for this kind of nuisance.
Air-conditioned buses in suburbs (such as in Rangsit and Nonthaburi) have various qualities--some are quite good and comfortable since they use the same air-conditioned buses that are used in the city, but others--especially ones with connections to political figures, the military mafia, or powerful families--are ones that cause despair to the passengers.

Connection between Subway-Skytrain and SRT railway & 482 billion baht nationwide double tracking - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Matichon, February 7, 2004
The Traffic Policy Office and SRT Board of Directors are discussing the plan for constructing interchanges between the SRT commuter network and the Skytrain-Subway system which will have the eight lines in the future. The Traffic Policy Office will deliver this plan to Premier Thaksin next week. SRT Director said SRT is going to expand the terminals as well as the interchange stations to facilitate passenger transfers and propose the 2nd phase nationwide double tracking starting in 2005 with a total budget of 482 billion baht.
Furthermore, SRT has been asked by the Traffic Policy Office to come up with a commuter network which uses Standard Gauge (1.4351 m) rails from the current meter gauge rails so as to allow EMU and electric locomotives with a maximum speed of 160 km/hr or more to be used. SRT will have to come up with an investment plan with details to be submitted to the cabinet.
SRT director said if SRT is to replace the meter gauge with standard gauge for commuter networks, it will require SRT to make massive nationwide regauging and the construction of new giant terminals such as Rangsit, Bangsue, and Makkasan to enable SRT to connect with the Skytrain-Subway network. SRT hopes that the budget is still within the nationwide double tracking budget of 400 billion baht.
For the case of the 2nd phase nationwide double tracking to be started in 2005, it will have the total budget of 482.782 billion baht which can be categorized as follows:
1) Northern Line -> Lopburi - Chiang Mai 700 km -> 116.900 billion baht
2) Southern Line -> Nakhon Pathom - Padang Besar -> 990 km - 165.330 billion baht
3) Northeastern lines
3.1) Kaeng Khoi - Bua Yai - Nong Khai - 609 km - 88.510 billion baht
3.2) Map Krabao - Nakhon Ratchasima - Ubon Ratchathanee - 441 km - 51.937 billion baht
4) Eastern lines
4.1) Chacheongsao - Aranyaprathet - 194 km - 42.585 billion baht
4.2) Laem Chabang - Kaeng Khoi - 189 km - 17.520 billion baht
Commentary by Wisarut: Replacing the commuter network with standard gauge may or may not work. Probably, the best deal is to do the nationwide double tracking first and then add the commuter lines in standard gauge. Probably SRT should set up subsidiaries to handle the commuter networks as well as the double tracking and expansion.
The steel rails for standard gauge should be 60 kg/m (120 lb/yard) type while the meter gauge rails should be 50 kg/m (100 LB/yard). The leftover rails and wooden sleepers could be sold or donated Lao Railway Authority and Chemin de Fur Cambodge (Cambodian Railway Authority) so they can expand their rail system. The crumbling wooden sleepers could be sold to power steam locomotives in Cambodia as fuel wood as well since they are running out of wood to fuel the locomotives.
Double tracking to Padang Besar is a good idea indeed even though KTMB (Malaysian Railway Authority) seems to put the electrification and double tracking on the hold after reaching Ipoh instead of going on to Padang Besar. However, the government should also increase traffic to Sugai Kolok or even the reintroduction of the international line to Tumpat even though the government has to take a risk from terrorist attacks. This transport link would help to cement the nation and boost the economy to prevent young Muslims wanting to join terrorists.
We should ask foreign investors to set up local assembly plants for diesel and electric locomotives as well as DMUs and EMUs to meet surging demand for them. SRT has to keep good old GE locomotives functioning 20 more years by replacing the new diesel-electric engines even though they are supposed to retire from their jobs after 40 years in service.
If SRT is going to turn commuter lines into standard gauge electrified railways, the line from Nong Pladuk to Lopburi must be revived from the current terminal at Suphanburi. SRT has cut the traffic to a single commuter trip from Bangkok to Suphanburi (using THN DMU) from 3 daily trip from Bangkok to Suphan Buri (which uses Daewoo DMUs). This link will allow SRT to add the standard gauge commuter lines without interruption.
Even without gauge conversion, SRT has to construct giant terminals at Rangsit, Bangsue, Makkasan, Bangkok Noy station (now Thonburi Station) and so on... as well Interchange stations at Hua Mark, Bangsue, Yommaraj, Wongwian Yai, Phyathai, Mahachai, Talingchan and Bang Bamru.

Ch. Karnchang pushing the price for selling BMCL upward - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Thai Post, February 4, 2004
Transport Minister Suriya has included the 8th line with a price tag of 30 billion baht into the new 400 billion baht plan. The Traffic Policy Office is threatening BMCL to sell the stocks at par after Ch. Karnchang quoting the price 100% higher than the par price.
Mr Khamroblux Suratsawadee told the press that Minister SUriya is asking the Traffic Policy Office to make a study on the 8th line in addition to the first seven lines and put it into the six year project. The 8th line will become the elevated Yellow line and go from Samrong to Bang Kapi via Sri Nakharin Road with a total distance of 22 km with total price tag of 32.2 billion baht. Either BTSC or the new company will handle the line--after the government has nationalized the project to become a single operator.
The details for all 8 lines:

Line From To via Distance Budget
Light Green Line Samyaek Faichai Samut Prakarn Rattnakosin Island, Sukhumvit 24 km 46.3 billion baht
Dark Green Line Saphanmai Phetkasem Phaholyotin Taksin - Phetkasem Road 19 km 28.1 billion baht
Blue Ring Bangsue Tha Phra Charansanitwongse - Grand Palace 27 km 46.2 billion baht
Purple Line Bang Yai Ratboorana Samsen Road Memorial Bridge 40 km 74.9 billion baht
Orange Line Bang Kapi Bang Bumru Ram Khamhaeng, Ratwithee Road 24 km 62.5 billion baht
Red Line Commuter Rangsit Mahachai Hualamphong, Wongwian Yai 65 km 59.7 billion baht
Pink Airport Link Talingchan NBIA Bangsue, Makkasan 50 km 46.3 billion baht
Yellow Line Samrong Bang Kapi Sri Nakharin, Lum Salee 22 km 32.2 billion baht
      Total 271 km 396.200 billion baht

The purchase of BMCL Stock will have to be postponed for six months to allow BMCL to finalize the price even though the Traffic Policy Office is asking BMCL to sell at par and a little premium, not par plus premium as BMCL asked. If BMCL refuses to cooperate with the government, the government will have to construct parallel lines to fit into the government plan.
BMCL has responded if the government wants to nationalize BMCL, the government has to purchase at the market price -> 200 baht/share against the par price of 100 baht/share. Furthermore, BMCL would decide to cut the par price from 100 baht to 1 baht while increasing the number of stocks 100 times as the way to get into the stock market.
Commentary by Wisarut: It looks like it will not be easy to buy the stock from BMCL.
The Yellow Sri Nakharin Line (Bangkapi - Samrong) is a response to the request from those who live along Sri Nakharin road who are missing from the plan. This is also the first section of Governor Samak's Ring line to be implemented due to surging demand along that route. BTSC is the likely candidate since the line will terminate at Samrong. Hope that this line will be actually implemented -> with viaduct connecting Carrefour, Tesco Lotus, The Mall Bang Kapi, Seacon Square, Seri Center, Central City Bangna, and Hua Mark Railway Station. Therefore, Krungthep Thanakhom should submit the Sri Nakarin section of the Bangkok Ring Railway to the Traffic Policy Office so as to speed up implementation.

Political motivations and obstacles behind the mass transit sell-out - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Prachachart Thurakij, February 2-4, 2004
After Suriya asked BMCL to sell the concession back to MRTA as the way to merge with BTSC, it created lots of discussion and arguments since nobody expected that the government is going to buy the concession back just a few years after approving the concession. Thus the plan may drag on. Mr Suriya said he wants a single operator as in other countries. Furthermore, Mr Suriya has said MRTA must conclude the deal with Ch. Karnchang by the early February 2004.
There must be political motivation behind such a change due to the upcoming BMA Governor Election around August 2004. Furthermore, the Juengrungrueangkit family may plan to hoard BMCL and BTSC shares. Suriya can use the government as a shell to accomplish his own plan since his family is wealthy enough to do so. Many people still doubt on the claim that Mr Suriya has negotiated with BMCL already.
MRTA say the new company will be own by government 51 % while the rest will be owned by BMCL and BTSC as well as former creditors. So far BMCL has invested 18 billion baht of which 11 billion baht is debt while MRTA still has to deal with 50 billion baht of principle which resulted in 80 billion baht in debt with interest included. However, 80 billion baht debt owed by MRTA is public debt.
The new company will have state enterprise status even after offering an IPO. This may create speculators to hoard the shares of the new holding company. However, Natural Park PCL (the new major shareholder of BMCL) said they refuse to sell the company back to the government and the shares held by Ch. Karnchang PCL is collateral for the loan. Therefore, the creditors will not sell the shares to the government either. The selling of BMCL shares held by Ch. Karnchang PLC require the approval from the Ch. Karnchang Board of Directors. Otherwise, Mr. Pliew would be sued by his own board of directors.
BMCL has registered capital of 6.8 billion baht -> 30% owned by Natural Park PCL, Ch. Karnchang PCL 33%, Bangkok Expressway PCL 15%, KTB 10%, TMB 5%, and SCIB 2.5%. Therefore, Mr. Pliew cannot make a decision to sell the stock back to the government without approval from the shareholders.
Furthermore, the estimated future price for the subway is about 200 billion baht--the price BMCL expected to get paid from the government coffers. It is very doubtful if the government has to pay such an enormous sum to purchase the project back. The nationalization of the project also creates a crisis of confidence with foreign investors who might invest in this project.
BTSC said they have no objection to the government buying the project but it has to be at a very fair rate--100 baht/share. So far, there is no response from the MOTC whether they are going to buy the Skytrain or not. The debt restructure of 32.4 billion baht is done with a loan deal to be signed in the next four months and an IPO to follow. However the debt restructure has cut down the price of the stock from 10 baht/share to 5 baht/share.
The plan to nationalize both systems has cast worries as to whether it will create more problems or it is the plan for politicians to hoard shares for themselves.

Pliew and Khiree preparing to sell the Skytrain-Subway - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Than Setthakij, February 1-4, 2004
Mr. Pliew (BMCL) and Mr. Khiree (BTSC) are implying that they may sell the shares of both companies to the government. However, BMCL shares must be at least 150 baht/share--and the government has to prepare at least 18 billion baht to buy BMCL. Suriya's plan to buy BMCL at 100 baht/share is aborted since the contract said the government can purchase at this price within 12 months after signing the contract. Therefore, the government has to purchase BMCL stocks at par (150 baht/share) or the market price.
The new holding company would consist of
70-80% Government
20-30% BMCL + BTSC
After merging with the holding company, all the officers and workers of both companies have to be transferred to the holding company. MRTA would be the single operator of the system. The new smart cards for the integrated system would be introduced. The new holding company will offer an IPO (for the 20-30% section of BMCL+BTSC). The plan for merging will be submitted to the cabinet on February 15.
The creditors of BTSC agree to trim debt and extend the debt payment from 38 billion baht (6 billion baht as interest) by transforming 16 billion baht into equity and write off 8 billion baht of interest and principle. Therefore, the BTSC debt is now 14 billion baht (36% of the balance sheet). The debt payment is also extended from 12 months to 18 months.

BTSC is now owned by
Thanayong PCL - 28.21%
CTF Resources Limited - 17.27%
Credit Suisse First Boston (Hongkong) Ltd. - 12.67%
ITD Legal Entities Co.Ltd. (Italian Thai Development PCL's Subsidiary) - 10.46%
CitiBank Nominees Singapore PTE Ltd. - 3.82%
The creditors of BTSC are
KfW - 60%
Siam Commercial Bank PCL - 30%
IFC (World Bank) - 10%
The share ratio between BMCL and creditor: 50:50
Mr. Kasem Jatikawanit (from BTSC) said the company agrees with the government policy for the plan to merge both systems. However, the government has to tell the companies in advance to be fair with the shareholders, the private concession holders, and the people. Furthermore, the government has to deal with workers and officers from both companies without laying off them. If the government really wants to buy the company, they should be prepared to pay at premium--at least at par + 15 baht/share.
For the case of BMCL, Mr Pliew said BMCL will sell the stock to the government at the price of 150 baht/share so long that it for the benefit of the people, not for the benefit of vested interests.
BMCL has 68 million shares -> 6.8 billion baht. If the government wants to buy BMCL, they should have 10.2 billion baht in cash ready to pay at 150 baht/share. Furthermore, BMCL has invested 18.3 billion baht. 6.8 billion for capital and 11.5 billion for syndicate loan from four local banks:
KTB PCL - 4.2 billion baht
TMB PCL - 3.2 billion baht
BAY PCL - 2.5 billion baht
SCIB PCL - 1.0 billion baht
Therefore, the price to pay for BMCL should be about 22 billion baht not just 18 billion baht.
Now, it is government's problem to set the price. Minister Suriya may not know that the period to buy 25% of BMCL share at par (100 baht/share) has expired. The government should buy the stock before BMCL and BTSC offer an IPO on the stock market. Otherwise, the cost to pay both companies will be increased.

Meddling in mass transit plans - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Than Setthakij, January 29-31, 2004 [Ed.: Wisarut found this interesting article that again shows how the TRT boldly adjusts government plans to ensure large businesses associated with the opposition are put at a disadvantage. It should be noted that the Democrats (and all previous governments) did the same thing although not as aggressively as TRT. All Thai parties are 'backed' by large conglomerates.]
Suriya has asked Traffic Policy office to implement the following seven lines to please his own vested interests as well as to deal with traffic jams.
Total Budget for Mass Transit System Implementation: 379.560 billion baht
1) Commuter + Airport Link 115 km (2 lines) 115 km
2) Mass Transit System - 136 km (5 lines) Blue Ring (Bangsue - Bang Pho - Bang Oh - Charansanitwongse - Pinklao - Tha Phra, and Hua Lamphong - Wang Boorapha - Tha Phra (without extending to Bang Khae) 20 km more from existing 20 km -> 36.07 billion baht
2) Light Green (Samyaek Faichai - Sanam Laung - National Stadium Siam - Onnut - Samrong - Samut Prakarn) 24 km more from current section of 11 km -> 46.3261 billion baht
3) Dark Green (Donmuang - Kaset - Mochit - Victory Monument - Siam - Saladaeng - Saphan Taksin - Talad Ploo - Bang Wah - Phaseecharoen - Bang Khae) 24 km more -> from the current 12.5 km -> 37.45 billion baht
4) Purple Line (Bang Yai - Phra Nanklao - Wong Sawang - Bangpho - Sam Sen - Thewet -
Bang Lamphoo - Phan Fah - Wongwian Yai - Taksin - Mahai Sawan - Rat Boorana) 40 km - 80.930 billion baht
5) Orange Line (Bang Kapi - Ram Khamhaeng - MRTA - Thai Cultural center - Victory Monument - Sang Hee - Krungthon - Bang Bamru) 23 km -> 63.65 billion baht
6) Red Line Line (Rangsit - Bangsue - Yommaraj - Hua Lamphong - Wongwian Yai - Mahachai) 60 km -> 65.070 billion baht
7) Pink Airport Link (Talingchan - Bang Sue - Yommaraj - Phayathai - Makkasan - NBIA) 50 km -> 50.07 billion baht (Note: Commuter line 6 and 7 will share the tracks)
To implement this plan BMCL and BTSC must be forced to merge into a new company.
Even though the price to take over BMCL would be 18 billion baht MOTC is reluctant to take over BTSC unless BTSC has cut the debt down into the level that pleases the creditors which allow BTSC to be taken over at bargain prices. However, MOTC will have to negotiate with creditors and the major shareholders since nationalizing the system could breed corruption in the eyes of private sectors.
Commentary by Wisarut: Minister Suriya deliberately meddles into the original plan which allows convenient interchanges to be constructed and wants North-South East-West direction regardless of actual traffic flow which is very shameful. Even the Ring line has been shortened from stretching into full Ring to please Premier Thaksin who lives in Northern Thonburi while depriving those who live in the southern part of Rawtchadaphisek Inner Ring Road (from Tha Phra to Mahaisawan [The Mall Tha Phra included] as well as Rama III Section from Mahai Sawan to Queen Sirikit via Rama III Road). Forcing a retool of the route shows his ill intention to wreck havoc on the mass transit systems. Suriya should never do something like that since it could drag down the project.
It might be the plan for Suriya and Co. (Sudarat included) to introduce the Busway in the middle of the road in the same way as Jakata (Indonesia) and Hidalgo (Columbia). [Yes! This is what is planned. We will have an article from Thairath on these plans tomorrow.] However, this busway in the middle of the road will not work unless BMTA has rejigged existing buses to allow the gates on the right hand side. The early failure of such buses should be a reminder of the problems with this system. Those who live around Lad Phrao Area and Narathiwat Ratchanakharin Road have already had a very bitter experience from this kind of experiment. If Premier Thaksin, Minister Suriya, Khun Sudarat and those in MOTC insist to put Bangkokians under this experiment, they will face very grave consequence during the election.
The Mall Group has a strong connection with the Democrats, thus it may be the plan to starve the financial source of the opposite in the same way MOTC meddled in CH. Karnchang, the Loxley Group, and Kasikornthai Bank PCL.
Political heavy hands by TRT could ruin the election prospect for both the BMA Governor as well as the upcoming General Election in Bangkok area since most Thai people would vote for those are victims of the plan, even though most Thais would neither forgive not forget the Democrats who have sold out the nation to foreigners. The delays of Skytrain and subway extensions could also generate more angry voters... even though the Southern insurgency, the Thai-Malaysian Pipeline, the Laem Phak Bia controversies, and Bird Flu scandal would be the major forces that might put TRT into a dangerous position.

Electrified railway from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Manager Online, January 18, 2004
Mae Hong Son Tourist Business Association is asking for a new electrified railway from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son (the former Siamese version of Siberia) since flights and buses to Mae Hong Son have been stretched to the limit due to booming tourism. A railway is the only answer available and needs one billion baht of investment. If the government declines to invest, the provincial hall will ask Japanese investors to handle the project.
The flight from Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai is 870 baht... very expensive. Thus the railways are the only option to support the boom. The road from Chiang Mai to Pai to Mae Hong Son is 289 km--a 5-6 hour trip and the direct rote from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son via Mae Sariang would take about 7-8 hours.
The proposed railway route route from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son is 147 km--a significant shortcut. The plan also taken the forest into account so the construction will be done by making pillars on the hill without digging tunnels or blasting the mountains. The budget for this system would be 1 billion baht.
If the government (SRT) declines to invest, Japanese investors are interested since lots of Japanese have come to Mae Hong Son since Mae Hong Son had been on the path of Imperial Japanese Army to invade Burma - and there are some IJA officers who stayed in Mae Hong Son for the rest of their lives after WWII.
Commentary by Wisarut: If Premier Thaksin is serious about this proposal, he should also ask SRT to set up the new Northern Railway network and a subsidiary of SRT to meet local demand including the following routes:
1) Denchai - Chairai - Chiang Saen via Phrae and Phayao
2) Double tracking from Denchai to Chiang Mai with electrification, 2nd Khun Tan tunnel, and signal modernization
3) Chiang Mai - Mae Hong Son shortcut
This may need a joint venture with foreign investors (especially from Japan-Germany-France even mainland China) to accomplish the task.
Same thing can be done to the Southern Railway - set up a Subsidiary to handle Southern Railway Networks. If SRT would like to have railway network expansion in the same way as the railways in Japan do, subsidiaries are necessary and it may need to keep the state enterprise status to keep the unions at bay.
The opinion about the railway line from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son gets lots of support. Only those with vested interests will go against the system. To read some Thai-language comments, check here and here.

400 billion baht mass transit plan to be approved by mid-February--without any foreign loans - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Prachachart Thurakij, January 15, 2004
Suriya is pushing forward the 400 billion baht Mass Transit System to be approved by the cabinet in February 2004. The construction form will be changed to get speedy approval. MOTC expects to get construction started in 2005.
The initial capital for the project will be 10 billion baht from the mid-year budget to hire consultants for detail designs and land expropriation. The government will finance the project from the structure and energy funds--without foreign loans.
MOTC asks the Traffic Policy Office, SRT, MRTA to have a discussion and report about the readjusted plans in detail--about the line, the starting points, investment form, benefits, procurement, and benefit. The MOTC is waiting for BMA for a new and readjusted Skytrain expansion plan. After receiving the plan, they will submit it to the Traffic Committee. If everybody agrees with the plan, the construction could start immediately.
For investment plan, it will come from infrastructure funds, energy funds (at least 4%) and IPOs - after BMCL has offered an IPO. The first two sections to be started are:
1) Hua Lamphong - Yaowaraj -Chaloem Krung - Wang Saranrom - Pakklong Talad -
Tha Phra - Bang Wah -Bang Khae [Kanchanaphisek]
2) Bangsue - Tao Poon - Wong Sawang - Tiwanon - Phra Nanklao - Bang Yai [Kanchanaphisek]
Both sections already have their design blueprints done. Only some adjustmentsare necessary.
The budget will come from domestic loans to cut Forex risk and conditions attached from the foreign creditors. For the SRT substitution of Hopewell, the northern section (Rangsit - Bangsue) is still being designed while the 26 billion baht airport link (Makkasan - NBIA) is waiting for procurement in the next four months.
MRTA Director said after discussion with the Traffic Policy Office, MRTA will cut the budget by not constructing some redundant stations, and reducing underground stations from 3-4 floors to 2 floors (a ticketing floor and platform floor). Land expropriation will be at 500,000 baht/sq wah.
Mr. Pliew from Ch. Karnchang PCL said the company will compete for the system and civil works due to experience with the MRTA subway.

Locals comment on mass transit - January 16, 2004
Wisarut reports: Here are some typical comments from local people about the Subway system on the Manager webboards (translated and summarized):
1) An extension is needed to Talingchan area (suburban area in Thonburi side - the place for growing vegetables in Bangkok)
2) An extension should go along Kaset-Nawamin -> and please get the expressway project away from Kaset (the 3rd stage expressway) since it will create more traffic instead of solving traffic jams.
3) Please use the structure of Hopewell Project for mass transit extensions.
4) When roads are fixed they should end up as neat as the original road. Merely filling potholes is not enough. Line drawing on the highways is very lousy and error-prone.
5) The 20-year masterplan should add more lines in the suburb than the current plan. Those who live in Lad Phrao - Serithai Road area (up to Siam Park and Minburi) are missing out of the 20-year plan.
6) Even though most people want a Skytrain extension to Saphan Mai, there are a few who said BTSC should use the Hopewell section instead due to the fact that Phaholyothin is too dense for further development.
7) The new extension should go to the suburbs instead of downtown and the city center even though MRTA and BTSC as well as MOTC will have to pay a huge sum of rent and have revenue sharing with SRT - or come up with a route to the suburbs like Bang Bauthong and Sai Noy.
8) There must be some idiots who told PM Banharn to put all sections of the Blue Line into underground instead of just the southern part. The northern part of the line has enough space to create an elevated section without problems. The elevated northern section would allow convenient interchange with Mochit Station.
9) Readjust bus routes to feed Subway and Skytrain.
10) The interchange between BTSC and Subway must be well designed. Even though the interchange at Silom is constructed, it is a very poor design.
11) Please help BTSC to dug the tunnel to enable the western extension to go through Rattankosin Island to enable the system to go to northern Thonburi.

Transnational road due for completion within two weeks - Bangkok Post, January 14, 2004
A group of 77 Thai businessmen and officials inspected the route in a vehicle caravan to Burma and China over the past weekend. The trip started from Mae Sai district in Thailand's Chiang Rai province and took them through the Burmese towns of Tachilek, Kengtung and La, and ended in China's Jing Hong...

Proposing the Mass Transit Holding Company - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Thansetthakij, Jan 11-14, 2004
The Traffic Policy Office has asked the government to come up with a Mass Transit System Holding company as the way to integrate BTSC and BMCL together and turn the assets of both companies into stocks with public investment on infrastructure of 400 billion baht. This is a long term solution for interconnection problems. This way is also a way of getting around the Joint Venture Act of BE 2535 and speed up the project to meet the target of 100 km more mass transit in six years.
There are three mass transit projects: BTSC, BMCL, and the failed Hopewell. There will be lots of problems the government has to bare after the expiration of concessions and the nationalize of the system.
There will be problems for integration since the joint ticket problems have not been resolved due to revenue sharing problems. Furthermore, it takes long time (more than two years) to get extension approvals due to the Joint Venture Act of BE 2535 with requires environmental assessment.
To cut red tape and help to keep both BTSC and BMCL profitable, the new company will have to be created. The assets of both BMCL and BTSC will be stocks in the new company and the government can make a joint-investment of 400 billion baht on the infrastructure of the project while getting around that law.
So far, Minister Suriya and Premier Thaksin agree with this scheme proposed by the Traffic Policy Office. Minister Suriya then will ask the Traffic Policy Office to finalize the scheme by the end of Jan 2004 to be submitted to the cabinet. The construction will be 'design and build' to cut construction time while the construction will be defined as unit cost per km before calling new bids.

Idea for the Hat Yai mass transit system - December 23, 2003
Phatraphon has this idea for a Hat Yai mass transit route (81kb).
Earlier: A monrail for Hat Yai - December 15, 2003
Also: The Songkhla to Hat Yai railroad & station and the Chiang Mai Subway has not been in the news lately, but since this is the Prime Minister's province, we would not be surprised to see this project revived.

Hua Lamphong being air-conditioned - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Manager Daily, December 21, 2003
SRT is installing air-conditioning in Hua Lamphong. It was started on December 1, 2003 and will be done in early April 2004 as a response to the opening of the subway system on April 13, 2004. This installation will be done at night except during December 27, 2003-January 4, 2004. So far there are about 200 trains in and out of Hua Lamphong serving tens of thousands during normal days and hundreds of thousands during festival times.
Hua Lamphong opened for service on June 25, 1916. The construction started around 1910 to replace the old Bangkok Railway (today the place where a pillar shows the inauguration of railways in 1897). [The allies attempted to bomb the station during World War II, but hit a hotel nearby.]
The air-conditioning system is being installed by Thai Nakhon Ratchathanee Co.Ltd. (the contractor) - along with new floor tiles, screen doors with glass and decorations as well as signs showing significant tourist spots around Thailand on the walls. The dome roof will also be covered with foam insulation--state-of-the-art insulation for air conditioning systems--while keeping the old Italian and European Renaissance architecture with wooden decorated roofs and stain glass intact.
Earlier renovations of Hua Lamphong were undertaken for the 1998 Asian Games and 1999-2000 Amazing Thailand campaign.

A tale of two newspapers: Expressway extensions - December 26, 2003
Notice how the same story is reported in the Thai- and English-language press. Thansetthakij ran the story with info from BMA sources on December 21 and the Bangkok Post ran it today with information from ETA...

Two expressway extensions approved - Bangkok Post, December 26, 2003
...the board on Monday gave the go-ahead for construction of a 13.7-billion-baht, 9.5km-long expressway to connect the northern end of the Ram Inthra-At Narong expressway with the eastern part of the outer ring road... The endorsement also covers a southern section of the third-stage expressway, called S2, worth 21.5 billion baht that will connect the first-stage expressway and the S1 expressway section in Bang Na to the planned southern part of the outer ring road, as well as another expressway system called the industrial ring road to be built in southern Bangkok...

Also: SRT aims to double income from cargo trains next year - Bangkok Post, December 26, 2003
The State Railway of Thailand expects to double its income from cargo trains next year through marketing efforts and infrastructure development. It makes about two billion baht now...
Six billion baht for roads--including Lad Phrao elevated way and tunnel - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Thansetthakij, December 21-24, 2003
Six billion baht has been budgeted for BMA to construct an elevated way at Lad Phrao Intersection, a Lad Phrao Elevated Way connecting the tollway with Kanchanaphisek Outer Ring Road and 15 tunnels at Kaset Intersection, Ratchayothin Intersection, and Ratchadaphisek Inner Ring Road, etc. The airport rail link to Suvannabhum also gets a boost. Now the Ministry of Energy has agreed to allocate 4% of fuel funds for the airport rail link to Suvannabhum.
The construction of Lad Phrao Elevated Way connecting the tollway with Kanchanaphisek Outer Ring Road will have a price tag of 8.4 billion baht and BMA have finished the design work. The construction will be started in April 2004. Kaset [Bangkhen] tunnel will be constructed in July 2004 with a price tag of 400 million baht. These two project will be done in 450 days.
[Continued from the Thansetthakij article above right] The elevated way at Lad Phao Intersection has a price tag of 500 million baht. All projects are waiting for contractors. Ratchadaphisek Inner Ring Road and Kanchanaphisek outer ring road will have 11 new tunnels and 4 new flyovers with a price tag of 4.8 billion baht. Four bridges across Chao Phraya are also included in the plan. There will be a new 300-km expressway--both toll-free and tollways--to relieve congestion at Sukhumvit, Rama 4 and Queen Sirikit National Convention Center.
There will be three bids for the projects:
1) The 3rd Stage Expressway (S2)
2) Ram Indra - Kanchanaphisek Outer Ring Road
3) Rama 6 Expressway
For the 256 km mass transit system, the Ministry of Energy has agreed to allocate 4% of energy funds to finance the mass transit systems. The leftover funds from 120 billion baht Suvannabhum Airport will be used to construct double tunnels--about 600-1000 million baht. The procurement will be started in the next six months so as to be done when airport is opened in September 29, 2005.
Also:
Major overpasses and tunnels planned for trouble areas - Dailynews, November 26, 2003

New expressways, roads, and bridges - Dailynews, November 25, 2003

Command centre ready to control Bangkok’s traffic - The Nation, December 23, 2003
...digital image processing, as well as systems called gridlock control and digital trunk radio, will be introduced to assist the work of the Traffic Police Division’s new Traffic Command Centre by late this year.


Electrified rail lines north and south - December 19, 2003
Wisarut Bholsithi reports: According to Thairath Daily (December 15, 2003), SRT has come up a double tracking, track rehabilitation and electrification plan with the budget of 400 billion baht. There will be two lines which will be doubletracked, rehabilitated, and electrified: 1) Bangkok - Chiangmai 2) Bangkok - Hat Yai. The plan will be submitted to the cabinet in early 2004.
BTW: Following a pattern of English-language papers carrying the same news a day after it appears in the Thai-language press, Bangkok Post had this story the following day:
Railway network to be electrified in 6 years - Bangkok Post, December 16, 2003
The Transport Ministry plans to electrify the nation's railway network at a cost of 300-400 billion baht over the next six years. Once completed, it will shorten travelling time between Bangkok and Chiang Mai from about 13 hours to only five... Siemens Co of Germany and some companies in Japan were already making initial studies, Mr Suriya said.

Natural Park major shareholder in BMCL - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Than Setthakij Dec 18 - 20, 2003
Natural Park PCL (N-Park) and Siam Syntec PCL are hoarding 29.78% of shares in BMCL and have sent officers to become members of the BMCL Board to enable them to develop the land around the stations and boost more revenue for MRTA. N-Park has negotiated for a few land plots around the stations.
Even though Ch. Karnchang PCL and their allies are still major shareholders, N-Park will definitely become a major shareholder after the IPO in December 2004.
N-Park has send officers to be in the BMCL Board of Director since N-Park has expertise in real estate and negotiated with a few landowners to sell or make a joint venture, but the final settlement will come up soon.
N-Park has purchased 16.79 million common stock of BMCL at the price 150 baht/share with total price of 2.51992 billion baht. Thus N-Park becomes a major shareholder in BMCL at 24.7% At the same time, Siam Syntec Construction PCL has purchased 3.45 million shares (5.07%) with a price tag of 150 baht/share -> total 0.5175 billion baht. 150 baht/share is the same price that BMCL sold the shares to Krungthai Thanawat Mutual Funds for.
In the current structure, BMCL will consist of the following major shareholders:
N-PARK PCL - 24.71%,
Ch. Karnchang PCL - 23.09%,
BECL PCL (Subsidiary of Ch. Karnchang PCL) - 15%
SYNTEC Construction PCL - 5.07%
N-Park will send board members to deal with station areas as well as connections with the buildings nearby to boost passengers.
Investment in BMCL is very good for the company. After the MRTA subway becomes a reality, N-Park will make several real estate developments in the surround areas to create long-term benefit to the company.
In the first year (2004), BMCL will have to bare the loss of 3-400 million baht. Breaking will come in 2005 and profit will come up in 2006--due to 200,000 daily passengers. The payoff will be 15% of investment -> at 20 baht average ticket prices alone.
After N-Park comes out of rehabilitation, the company will have to invest in other related fields. The investment funds for BMCL from N-Park will come from a capital boost of 8 billion baht and 4 billion baht loan. The 1 billion baht leftover after capital investment will be the current capital.
The full structure of BMCL will be as follows (DEC 12, 2003):
Natural Park PCL -> 16,799,474 Stocks -> 24.71%
Ch. Karnchang PCL -> 15,702,302 Stocks -> 23.09%
Bangkok Expressway PCL -> 10,200,000 Stocks -> 15.00%
Mahasiri Siam Co.Ltd. -> 8,981,250 Stocks -> 13.21%
Krungthai Bangk PCL -> 6,800,000 Stocks -> 10.00%
SiamSyntec Construction PCL -> 3,450,000 Stocks -> 5.07%
Thai Military Bank PCL -> 3,400,000 Stocks -> 5.00%
Siam City Bank PCL -> 1,700,000 Stocks -> 2.50%
Krungthai Thanawat Mutual Funds -> 700,000 Stocks ->1.03%
Chanthawee Maintan Co.Ltd -> 176,045 Stocks -> 0.26%
Transit Express Co.Ltd. -> 90,006 Stocks -> 0.13 %
Total Shares of BMCL - 68,000,000
According to the contract, Ch.Karnchang must be the major shareholder (51%) until opening of the system in April 2004 -> after that, Ch. Karnchang could reduce the financial burden by selling their shares in BMCL to others.

N-Park aiming to takeover BTS to expand their real estate business - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Prachachart Thurakij, December 22-24, 2003
After taking over BMCL, Natural Park PCL (N-Park) is aiming for the next target -> BTSC to expand their real estate business with double magnets of mass transit systems. For BTSC, N-Park will purchase shares from creditors.
Mr. Khiree responded to this development by vowing he will fight at all cost to keep BTSC in his portfolio even though he might allow N-Park to participate in BTSC, but never as the major shareholder.
So far, the debt structure will be as follows:
Principle: 28.031 billion baht
Outstanding interest: 11.209 billion baht
Total: 39.510 billion baht
Credit First Boston (Hongkong) is the major creditor with 20% of BTSC shares and has a strong aim to take over BTSC.
N-Park has Sansiri PCL and Pacific Asset PCL (both real estate firms) and Siam Syntec Construction PCL (a contractor) as allies since N-Park has purchased significant shares from those companies.
(Note: After five years in rehabilitation, N-Park is back, stronger than ever.)

Budget airlines take toll on trains, buses - December 19, 2003
Wisarut Bholsithi reports: The Budget Airlines are taking a toll on intercity bus service as well as railways. According to Than Setthakij (December 17, 2003), the cheap budget airlines have forced SRT to cut ticket prices of 1st class and 2nd class sleeper cars. Transportation Co. Ltd. also has to cut ticket prices of the VIP class and purchase higher capacity 1st class air-conditioned buses.
If the situation gets worse, SRT may have to cancel 1st class service and transform all 1st class cars into 2nd class sleeper cars to meet the surging demand for 2nd class sleepers. After all, the 2nd class and 3rd class are the main sources of income for SRT. The cargo trains will also replace some passenger line that are unprofitable since there is also more demand for cargo services.
Transportation Co. Ltd. also has to cancel VIP buses since it cannot compete with budget airlines.


Proposing Thararak Phatthana Co. Ltd. to the cabinet to handle Chang Watthana Bureaucrat Center - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Matichon Daily, December 6, 2003
The Treasury Department is proposing the plan to set up Thanarak Phatthana Co. Ltd. to develop the land belonging to the Treasury Department in Chang Watthana Road into Chang Watthana Bureaucrat Office. If it is approved by the cabinet, the Treasury Department will set up that company immediately.
This new company will have 50 million baht initial capital - 100% held by the Treasury Department. If the government wants the expansion of Chang Watthana into a bureaucrat center, they can ask Thanarak Phatthana to handle the project.
For the revival of the defunct Bangkok Terminal at Mochit, the Treasury Department has hired Tisco Co.Ltd. to be the consultant to deal with such problems before allowing a joint venture with the proposed Thanarak Phatthana Co. Ltd. to revitalize the project.
Commentary by Wisarut: I hope that Bangkok Terminal will be revitalized as a hub for the inter city bus to Nakhon Nayok, Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, Prachinburi, Chachoeng Sao, Rayong (via Prachinburi) etc.


Hueng River bridge - December 16, 2003
News about a new bridge to Laos. Interesting to note the different reasons given for the project delay and that both newspapers spell the name differently.
Reason for delay: The project has been on hold for almost a decade, partly due to problems concerning the boundary of the Hueng river, over which the bridge will be built. (Work on bridge to take six months - Bangkok Post)
Reason for delay: The bridge was proposed in 1993, but failed to materialise due to the lack of funding. (Work begins on bridge - The Nation)


More on the Hat Yai monorail - December 15, 2003
Discuss these stories on the 2Bangkok.com Forum
Yesterday, we ran a story about The Hat Yai monorail (see below). Today Wisarut comments on the system: For the case of the Hat Yai Mass Transit System, I found several shortcomings which would need to be addressed before implementing the system.
Even though the system looks good (ring line and red line that connects to magnet places such as Hat Yai Bus Terminal, Hat Yai Railway Junction, Diana Department Store, Big C Hat Yai, Prince Songkla University, Charanakhorn Stadium, Macro Hat Yai, etc.), there are the following drawbacks:
1) No direct connection with Hat Yai International Airport
2) No direct connection to Muang District of Songkla - a replacement for the defunct Hat Yai-Songkla Railway
3) No direct connection with Tinlasoolanon Stadium (the main stadium of Songkla Province)
If Songkla is to host the 2007 Seagames, the monorail line must link with Tinlasoolanon Stadium and Chiranakorn Stadium.
However, this project has been proposed by Prai Patthano, the Hat Yai mayor from the Democrat Party, and thus it will be quite hard if not impossible to have the system implemented especially when the local government must ask for the funds from the central government to set up the system [Since the Democrat party is in the opposition].
If Prai Patthano have read the complaints from Singaporeans about the shortcomings of the People Movers (AKA monorail system), he would opt to use LRT instead since it has fewer problems. An LRT could follow the defunct Hat Yai-Songkla Railway line. It is larger and more economic of scale to come up with an LRT instead of a toy monorail.
BTW: The monorail photo is from the Bukit-Panjang LRT of Singapore (a feeder Monorail or an automated elevated people mover line for the Singapore MRT).


Earlier: A monorail for Hat Yai - December 13, 2003

(Photo: Hat Yai Today)
Bird passed along this news: I would like to introduce you to two interesting sites on the Web. The first site is about the Monorail/LRT project (so-called Hat Yai Mass Transit System: HMT) for Hat Yai City recently proposed by Prai Pattano, a Democratic candidate for Hat Yai City Mayor, in order to solve the city's growing traffic problem. (The mayoral election will be held early next year.) It seems to me that Hat Yai City Municipality will lead the project by itself (like the BMA did for the BTS project in 1991) and not wait for the MRTA to draw the plan for Hat Yai people.

The site Hat Yai Today published the story (all in Thai) along with pictures including the map of the proposed routes. This map was taken from the second web site, the Rail Thai site. The Rail Thai site itself is very interesting indeed. It's full of information about Thai railway with maps and lots of pictures. This one should satiate rail fans' appetite very well. Again all information on this site is also in Thai.

Suriya to revamp bus services, tackle graft - Bangkok Post, January 5, 2004
..."I was forced to look into the work of the Transport Co as I recently received a complaint from a private bus operator who has shown an interest in running services between Nakhon Ratchasima and Rayong by using the motorway, which is a short cut and would benefit the public.
"The Transport Co reportedly barred his firm from operating on this new route. I had sought an explanation from the bus agency and was told that a veteran politician did not want the firm to operate on that route," said Mr Suriya. He declined to give the name of the politician.
..

Highway Department expanding motorway to eight lanes for NBIA - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Thairath, December 4, 2003
The Highway Dept has hired Naowarat Phatthanakarn PCL to expand the Motorway from km 0.600 to km 13.800 from 4 lanes to 8 lanes (Sri Nakharin Road to Rom Klao Road) with total distance of 13.2 km and a budget of 574 million baht. The contract will be started on December 31, 2003 to December 25, 2004. The center of the motorway is the place for road expansion - thus the trees along the center of the motorway must be removed to the interchanges and concrete bars will be put in the center.

Local government and real estate tycoons invited to finance the mass transit expansion & Chang Watthana Road and Kanchanaphisek Outer Ring Road to become expressways - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Matichon Daily, December 6, 2003
The Traffic Policy Office is inviting real estate tycoons and local governments to invest in the mass transit system as the way to reduce government subsidies by 50%. Furthermore, Chang Watthana Road and Kanchanaphisek Outer Ring Road will become expressways. Investing 900 billion baht will reduce the economic loss from traffic jam which now costs two trillion baht.
Traffic jams cause 40-100 billion baht losses a year. If nothing is done to deal with the problem, the loss will stack up to two trillion baht. Therefore 900 billion baht is a good investment in mass transit.
Bangkok must be decentralized into new cities (New Towns In Town - the new cities within the old city) such as Bang Sue, Makkasan and Taksin. This will increase the roles of electric mass transit system.
However, the central government will invest on the core of the system while the local governments and real estate giants will invest in the infrastructure of the subsidiary lines which come into their areas as a way to cut construction costs by 50%.
The examples for such a case are:
1) the line that goes though Maungthong Thani - linking with the Purple Line -> Bangkok Land PCL should invest in such a link to IMPACT
2) the line that connects downtown Bangbuathong with the Lain to Ban Yai -> the Provincial Hall of Nonthaburi should invest in this link
3) the line that goes around Samut Prakarn linking with Skytrain and Ring Railway -> the Provincial Hall of Samut Prakarn should invest in this link
4) Skytrain Extensions -> BMA should be allowed to invest in this project if the private sector is not ready to deal with it
Furthermore, Chang Watthana Road, Kanchanaphisek Outer Ring Road (Eastern - Western section), and the roads in Chaturathit (four cardinal directions) Royal Project which passes through Ratchadaphisek Inner Ring Road and the road connecting Wat Nakhon In project with the Industrial Ring Road will be a toll-free expressway for those in the suburbs by upgrading the existing roads into high-speed roads.
Commentary by Wisarut: Turning Chang Watthana into a semi-expressway may or may not be working in the Traffic Policy Office's favor though.
MRTA should also help standardize the rolling stock and signals to be used in the expansion projects to ensure economies of scale and cheaper operational cost with more orders. Enough to set up a workshop for local assembly of subway-skytrain rolling stock and signals.
Tax breaks as well as other concessions higher than the ones offer by BOI are a must to invite more investors. Cutting red tape on implementing of extension of mass transit systems are another must-have for system expansion.

Four new roads to feed NBIA to be done in one year - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Dailynews, December 4, 2003
There will be four new roads constructed by the Rural Highway Department with a total budget of 340 million baht to allow those who live in Ladkrabang area (near NBIA) and Chachoengsao province to use this airport.
1. Wat Sri Wareenoy Road linking Banna Bangpakong with Onnut Road -> 13.53 km, 98.1 million baht - This will pass though the residential area for 50,000 officers who work in the airport.
2. Thepharaj - Lad Krabang (Thepharak?) -> 20.03 km road with 2 lanes - 145.3 million baht linking the motorway with the airport
3. Ban Pho Road from Ban Pho district of Chachongsao to NBIA -> 5.54 km, 40.2 million baht
4. Niyopm Yatra Road linking Thepharaj - Lad Krabang (Thepharak?) with Bangna - Trat Highway - 6.4 km - 46.4 million baht
These 4 roads will have drainage systems to deal with the soft clay area. These four roads can be expanded to four lanes to handle the traffic.

BMTA coming up with new air-conditioned bus lines to feed the subway - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Thairath, December 4, 2003
The Director of the PR Department for BMTA said that after the first subway becomes a reality in 2004, BMTA will run the air-conditioned feeder bus services to satisfy the passengers.
So far, 5 stations will become terminals of these new air-conditioned BMTA buses:
1. Queen Sirikit National Convention Center - 8-10 buses - There will be 4 lines terminating at Queen Sirikit
No 2 Queen Sirikit - Samrong
No 25 Queen Sirikit - Paknam - Sai Luad Depot
No 102 Queen Sirikit - Klong Toei - Paknam
No 205 Queen Sirikit - Chong Nonsee - Rama 3 - The Mall Tha Phra
2. Thai Cultural Center - There will be 2 lines
No 137 Circle Line (Thai Cultural Center - Ram Khamhaeng)
No 517 Thai Cultural Center - Lad Krabang (Terminal at King Mongkut Institute of Technology, Ladkrabang)
3. Lad Phrao Station - There will be 3 lines
No 96 Lad Phrao - Siam Park
No 503 Lad Phrao - Rangsit
No 518 Lad Phrao - Bua Khao Village
4. Kamphaengphet - There will be 3 lines
No 77 Kamphaengphet - Sathuipradit
No 145 Kamphangphet - Srinakharin - Paknam
No 536 Mochit - Paknam (Expressway)
5. Samyan - There will be 1 line
No 45 Samyan - Rama 4 - Pjhakhanong - Paknam
There are the other two stations which BMTA buses will pass but cannot set up the terminal for them, thus BMTA is going to extend or shorten the bus lines to function as feeders
1. Huay Kwang Station
No 13 -> Old: Huay Kwang to Klong Toei
New: Klong Toei - Huay Kwang Station - Thai Cultural Center Station - Rama 9 Depot
2. Phetburi Station
No 11-> Old: Pratoonam - Prawet
New: Phetburi - Prawet
No 58 -> Old: Pratoonam - Minburi
New: Phetburi - Minburi
No 93 -> New: Phetburi - SEAP Game Village
No. 206 -> Old: Kasetsart University - Sri Nakharin Depot
New: Phetburi - Sri Nakharin Depot
Commentary by Wisarut: Bus No 517 can be modified to pick up the passengers inside NBIA. Bus No 503 should be extended to pick up the Thammasart University Students. Bus No 11 and 58 should function as feeders to Makkasan Station since the passengers cannot wait for the commuter version of the railway to NBIA.

New parliament at Kiakkai - 12 billion baht to construct and move army units to other places - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Prachachart Thurakij, Vol. 27, No. 3537, December 4-6, 2003
The new parliament building will be at the Treasury Department land at Kiakkai. It will need a budget of 12 billion baht to construct and move the army units since it is the most appropriate area--close to the Grand Palace and has the least detrimental effect on the people. House Speaker Uthai has to give up the idea of having the new National Assembly at Paska Jolasit Dam in Lopburi.

The insiders in the National Assembly said the new site will be between Rama 5 Road and the Chaophraya River. This project also takes the Banna Project into account as well. After knowing that the government has chosen Kiakkai as the new site of the National Assembly, House Speaker Uthai decided to quit the project at Pasak Jolasit dam.

Previously, the committee has come up with three choices for the new parliaments to be chosen by the cabinet:
1) Railway Park - Chatuchak
2) Treasury Department land at Kiakklai
3) Tiwanon Ordinance
Initially the government chose Railway Park, but the national Assembly had another committee which concluded that Pasak Jolasit Dam area was the most appropriate place. Now it look like neither of them will be chosen.

The pros for Kiakkai area are:
1) Close to Chitladda Palace and Grand Palace and connects with Ratchadamnoen Avenue by expanding Phichai Road from Chitladda Palace to Kiakkai
2) Close to the administrative offices - on both national and local levels
3) Army is going to move out of Dusit area to Lopburi - no need to pay for those army families
4) New mass transit system will go to Dusit area

The initial phase for this project will require 12.648 billion baht which consists of
Construction cost - 8.750 billion baht
Compensation to the army - 3.530 billion baht
Infrastructure and decoration - 0.368 billion baht

Premier Thaksin and House Speaker Uthai have very serious conflicts on this project. Especially after Mr. Bhokin has replaced Mr. Korn for handing this project. Now, it is up to Premier Thaksin to make a final decision.

New expressways, roads, and bridges - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Dailynews, November 25, 2003
The four new expressway lines will be as follows:
1) Sri Rat expressway - Thanon Chan - Dao Khanong
2) The 3rd stage expressway - Bangna - Samut Prakarn
3) Ram Indra - Kanchanaphisek Outer Ring Road (Lam Look Ka)
4) Rama 6 Expressway (a substitute for the aborted Phayathai - Phutthamonthon Expressway) with a connection to Lad Phrao Elevated Way (BMA project with a price tag of 8.4 billion baht -> 60% central government and 40% BMA)
Furthermore, Premier Thaksin also speeding up four new bridges across Chao Phraya:
1) Ratchawongse Pier - Tha Din Daeng Pier with a price tag of 1 billion baht
2) Lad Ya Road - Mahaphruettharam Road with a price tag of 2.4 billion baht
3) Chan Road - Charoen Nakhon Road with a price tag of 3.26 billion baht
4) Kiak Kai Intersection with a price of 4.4 billion baht.
Commentary by Wisarut: Some people who go along Sathorn - Krung Thonburi as a daily routine, feel very puzzled why the government has made a decision to construct a new bridge at Chan Road as well as at Ratchawongse and Lad Ladya instead of a second Sathorn Bridge. It seems to me that many recent pet projects are for the vested interests around Premier Thaksin--the construction for bailing out TPI Cement, the city cars for Thai Summit Auto parts as well as for oil interests within the Ministry of Energy. However, many country folks would like to see high-speed railways as well as the integration of Mass Transit Systems in Bangkok--not those new expressways and elevated ways. The masterplan for mass transit system in 2023 also confirmed my cynical sense on government projects (and its emphasis on cars as opposed to mass transit).

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