Governor Samak’s mass transit plans remembered

Governor Samak's mass transit plans remembered - translated and summarized from Matichon Daily, January 5, 2004

[Ed.: This is probably the last gasp from Governor Samak. Largely sidelined by a powerful central government that has practically taken over the running of Bangkok, Samak announced a year ago that he would do nothing in his final year of office. The following article is a summation, written by Samak, of his bold mass transit plans that remain moribund.]

Governor Samak's ideas: The proposed plan (48kb) from Governor Samak from the late-1990's (from Matichon, January 5, 2004)

The reality: The comprehensive Thai map (240kb) for the new lines in the next 6 years as well as the line in the next 20 years (shown as white dots). Probably better to check out the Bangkok future mass transit map created by Chatchawal Phansopa.
Even though the BMA governor's term is nearly at an end, Governor Samak's still has ideas for the mass transit system even though none of them has become been accomplished. He notes that although BMA is supposed to handle all local utilities (such as electricity, water supply, mass transit systems telephones, or so) as they are supposed to, the central government said "We'll centralize the utility system! - We distrust trust the local government to handle the job!" BMA can only draw the line on the street, and install traffic lights and signs. Only BTSC is the true possession of BMA. Other than that, BMA will function as a maid and butler to clean the roads, collect garbage, and handle sewage. [All this has cut the Bangkok Governor out of a role in running the city.]
Governor Samak had a plan for the city about ten years before he become BMA governor. He proposed that Victory Monument will be the only central interchange - with the 2 major subway lines (North-South -> Rangsit - Fort Chulachomklao, East-West from Lad Krabang - Phutthamonthon) as well as other two subordinate lines (Northwest - Northeast line -> Bangbuathong - Victory Monument - Lam Lookka, Southwest - Southwest Line -> Omnoy - Victory Monument - Paknam) to connect Bangkok and vicinities in all eight directions, and the 40-km subway ring line to facilitate the movement. [We had lots of news on this ring railway: Ring Road/Ring Railway News 2003 and Ring road/Ring Railway News 2002-2001]
The suburb section would be at grade until it reaches Ratchadaphisek and then it become an elevated line. The elevated section would be 5.5 meters high.
So far, the ideas are still on paper and no one (not even MRTA) has fully implemented them yet. Only partial solutions have appeared due to the following obstacles:
1) The bureaucrat system which requires feasibility studies with the reliance on foreigners. Even though non-Thais have technical expertise which we have to rely on, those farang experts have no clue at all about the local people movements. [Ed.: True! We have noticed this time and time again. However, the same disregard to appears when local politicians propose transit routes which seem to benefit vested interest and ignore realities of local movement.]
2) Using profits as the main goal to make an investment on a mass transit project.
3) If they have no budget, they will ask for a loan which Governor Samak considers as "too much"
4) So many slow and dragging decisions and every time the government changes, the plan changes to accommodate different vested interests
5) Going section by section to get revenue first and then starting the extension later after making lots of money. A very primitive thought.
Ten years ago it was decided that only 100% private investment could be used on mass transit systems, thus today there is a Skytrain with total distance of 23 km.
Even though Governor Samak is not an expert, the elevated section in the CBD (Central Business District) area is no longer a good option. Even Chicago has demolished much of the elevated railway system. However, the former BMA governors insisted that "elevated mass transit system is the only option available." Governor Samak countered that "a 23 km elevated section to get 600,000 passengers a day is not possible. It needs extensions to the suburbs to reach such a high goal--at least 30 km for each line [2 lines]" and nobody listened to him.
The results (for the Skytrain):
2000: 120,000 passengers a day
2001: 180,000 passengers a day
2002: 300,000 passengers a day
2003: 330,000-360,000 passengers a day
This resulted in 5 million baht for daily expenses and 4 million baht daily revenue--a loss of 1 million baht a day (2002). Even this year BTSC managed to get a marginal first profit of 0.7 million baht, it is not good enough. The interest rate payment of 0.8 million baht a day will put BTSC in serious trouble.
Even the first day as BMA Governor, Samak tried to carry on the policy to deal with Samrong and Taksin Extension which requires approval from the Traffic Policy Office. Even the URMAP done by foreigners is not good either--only 4.3 km (after Taksin Intersection) with a price tag for initial investment of 0.9 billion baht and 2 billion baht (65% Central - 35% BMA) is not good at all since it gives us four stations. Samak tried so hard to get the Samrong extension going, but with so much red tape has barred him from doing so by delaying the project four times.
He also asked the central government to support six extensions and new lines to the suburbs and neighbor provinces as well as the line to Rattanakosin Island according to BMA initiatives:
1) Mahachai (28 km - Southwest - Via Maeklong Railway -> Taksin Intersection - Talad Ploo -Mahachai)
2) Nakhon Pathom (56 km - West via Southern Railway -> Mochit - Bangsue - Talingchan Nakhon Pathom)
3) Nonthaburi (14 km -> Mochit - Kaset - Kae Rai - Nonthaburi)
4) Pathum Thani (33 km Northwest-> Mochiot - Kaset - Khae Rai - Pakkret - Pathum Thani)
5) Chacheongsao (45 km - East - Onnut - NBIA - Chacheongsao)
6) Samut Prakarn (25 km - South -> Samrong and Paknam Extension)
For the case of the Rattanakosin Extension, it will go from National Stadium to Charoenphon Intersection and then go along Saensab Canal and Mahanak Canal via Bo Bae Market before heading to Phan Fah Bridge. After that, it will go along Klong Lord of Wat Ratchanadda to BMA Office before ending up at Rattanakosin Hotel near Sake lane near Sanam Luang. This version will have no detrimental effect on Rattanakosin Island since it would be hidden by surrounding buildings.
However, the Traffic Policy Office has meddled by asking BMA to dig tunnels to extend the line across the Chao Phraya River and those damn NIMBYs ['Not In My BackYard'] around Thammasart and Thonburi came to meddle with the project as well. Thus the plan to go across Rattankosin been effectively aborted.
For the case of Phaholyothin Extension (from Mochit to National Memorial and then going along Lam Lookka Road to downtown Lam Looka at Klong 16), the Traffic Policy Office has allowed us to extend up to Donmaung--even though those who live around Rangsit from Klong 1-Klong 4 are waiting for this extension.
If the Samrong Extension is finished sooner, the Park and Ride at Bang Na (near BITEC) will be a big boon to those who live around Bangna. The extension to either downtown Paknam or Thai Ban (near the Gulf of Thailand) will help those who live in Samut Prakarn.
For the case of Mahachai, Governor Samak tried to rent SRT land along Mahachai Line so BMA can construct the the new line parallel with Maeklong Railway. However, those damn Traffic Policy Office and MRTA people conspired to ask BMA to end the line at Bang Wah (Phetkasem Road)--even though MRTA Subway has not extended to Bang Khae yet.
BMA even asked Shanghai Metro to make three surveys for the route from Onnut to NBIA (23 km - 21 km in Bangkok and 2 km in Samut Prakarn) to please those who live around Onnut area as well as those who live in the eastern suburbs. However SRT and the Traffic Policy Office are standing in his way.
Even the 80 km ring line to connect all three sections of the Skytrain has not been approved since it has not had feasibility studies.
For the metro with 50 districts and the area of 1568 sq km, there are lots of people scattered around the metro area as well as in the surrounding six cities. If there is a place for the center station, Victory Monument is the only option now as it was ten years ago.
What Governor Samak can say for now is that if could do what he planned with support from the central government, he would be able to set opening dates for the routes that were planned.

Notes:

1) That is the same problem that plagued Tokyo Municipal Subway line (TOEI). It was TRTA (Teito Rapid Transit Authority) vs TOEI (Transportation Bureau of Tokyo Metropolitan Government) and TOEI Vs JREast. However, JREast and TRTA could work together though.
2) Every subway system has to be allowed to grow to meet demands. I have never heard that any city in the world can build mass transit systems and then stop.
3) For the integration with other systems, the link at Bangwah is necessary. SRT will not allow BMA to extend the skytrain along the SRT routed unless SRT gets a share of revenue from BTSC and BMA. Renting will not be enough.
4) So many political struggles between those in Thai Rak Thai and BMA office... It is hard to say anything will happen until Thai Rak Thai have consolidated their power in the BMA office.
5) For the elevated train system in Chicago, they are back and better then ever... thus the claim for the shortened the elevated line in invalid.
6) System integration is necessary. Just take a look at Kuala Lumpur's PUTRA and STAR as a good example.
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