Bangkok Subway News 2001-2003


(Photo: The Freight Co. Ltd.)
Above: Offloading the last of three subway coaches on October 15 at the Royal Thai Airforce base at Don Muang Airport in Bangkok.

Delivery of the subway cars - October 31, 2003
Press release about the subway car delivery: Bangkok, Thailand – October 30, 2003 – The Freight Co Ltd, a Bangkok based freight forwarding company specializing in international freight and logistics was entrusted with the customs clearance and delivery of the first complete subway train for the new Bangkok Subway due to open later next year. The subway train consisting of 3 coaches was flown from Austria to Thailand on 3 chartered AN-124-100.
The first coach was uplifted in Vienna on October 9th and the last coach arrived on October 15th for the official welcoming ceremony at Bangkok Donmuang Air Force Base. Arrival time of the last coach was scheduled to match the official reception chaired by Deputy P.M. Visanu Krau-ngam and Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit. The project was successfully completed on schedule with the delivery of all 3 coaches to Siemens AG during the night of October 15th.
The complex structure of the project required a lot of preparation and coordination between several government agencies and private companies involved including Royal Thai Air Force, Airports of Thailand, Thai Airports Ground Services, Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand, Bangkok Metro CO LTD, Siemens and various others.
The Freight CO LTD previously already handled Bangkok’s first Mass Rapid Transit System (Bangkok Skytrain) for Siemens on a turnkey basis.

Specification of subway rolling stock
- translated and summarized from Prachachart Thurakij, October 20-22, 2003
The driving bogey
Weight: 37.24 metric tons
Dimension (length x width x height): 21.8 m x 3.12 m x 3.8 m
The carriage bogey
Weight: 32.6 metric tons
Dimension (length x width x height): 21.8 m x 3.12 m x 3.8 m
The engineers from Siemens (Thailand) told the press that due to the tight schedule, Siemens decided to use the Skytrain as the prototype for Subway rolling stock. If Siemens has to come up with the brand new prototype, it requires six months. Differences from the Skytrain are the subway's blue seats, blue handles, and minor external decoration.

First train arrives by air from Austria - Bangkok Post, October 16, 2003
The first train built for Bangkok's new subway network was handed over yesterday, flown in from Austria by a giant cargo lifter. ...BMCL has ordered 19 three-carriage trains. The production period was shortened from 30 to 27 months as required by the government. This would be a world record for fast train production, according to Hans-Dieter Bott, vice-president of Siemens Transportation Systems Co. The other 18 trains will be delivered by sea by March next year.
The Post article quotes Sombat Kijjarak that "the 20km-long route would initially serve about 250,000 people a day, rising by 20% annually." Interestingly, The Nation article on the subway car delivery quotes Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit: "We believe there will be more than 100,000 people using the subway every day," he said. More on the Bangkok Subway

Earlier: Subway car arrival today - translated and summarized from Matichon Daily, October 15, 2003
8:45 - Antonov AN124-100 lands at Donmuang AFB and heads toward RTAF HQ building. Two other Antonov planes will park in parallel with the third plane. There will be video about the project and King Chulalongkorn and railway affairs.
9:00 - Officials explain the rolling stock assembly, the capacity of the Antonov planes, etc.
9:30 - Premier Thaksin and Minister Suriya speaks. A marching band plays.
Earlier: Bangkok subway cars being loaded on a plane - October 11, 2003
Thanks to Gerald for finding these awesome photos of our first subway car being loaded into a massive Antonov. Subway/Antonov I & Subway/Antonov II

Southern subway extension to be done in 6 years - translated and summarized from Matichon Daily, October 10, 2003
After the meeting between the Traffic Management and Policy Committee and BTSC, MRTA, SRT and BMTA on October 8, 2003, it was announced that the southern extension of MRTA from Hua Lamphong to Bang Khae will have to be done in 6 years.
Mr. Khamrolux said the further southern extension from Bang Khae to Om Noy district of Samut Sakhon via Phekasem Road is not urgent and thus this section will have to be suspended until demand picks up.
The plan for each route proposed by MRTA, BTSC [BMA], SRT and BMTA will be finalized on October 14, 2003 before submitting to the MOTC later on. Nevertheless, the Traffic Management and Policy Office has come up with the new route for BTSC and MRTA:
1) BTSC -> Sanam Laung - Siriraj - Charan Sanitwongse (Green Line)
2) MRTA -> Bangsue - Sang Hee - Bang Bamru (Orange Line)
However, the proposed route is not finalized yet. There will be another meeting on October 14, 2003.
More on the Bangkok Subway
Commentary: The Orange Line appears to be a substitute for the Purple line (from Bangsue to Bang Bamru via Sang Hee intersection). Furthermore, the western extension has been stretched to Charansanitwonse to meet the local demand to go to Sanam Luang.

More subway cars arriving in November 2003 - translated and summarized from Thairath Daily, September 28, 2003
BMCL and Siemens stated that the second set of subway cars will arrive at Laem Chabang in November 2003. They will be ready for a test run on April 13, 2004 and official run on August 12, 2003. Each car can carry 886 passengers/set, with 126 seats and 6 square meters for each passenger. The system will be 80% installed and ready for testing in December 2003. [Note that over the last few months, officials have changed the wording from a 'soft opening' in April, 2004 to a 'test run' in April 2004.]

300 billion baht Wayuphak Fund the main source for subway extensions - translated and summarized from Dailynews, September 30, 2003
On September 29, MRTA had a press conference indicating that the first bogey will be delivered to Thailand on October 11, the 2nd bogey on October 12-13, and the 3rd bogey on October 15. A ceremony will be performed to transfer the rolling stock at Donmuang Airforce Base. Each car is insured for 100 million baht. The other 18 sets will be delivered at Laem Chabang Deep Sea Port - to be finished in March 2004.
There are 60,000 signals to be controlled in Subway line while there are only 10,000 signals to be controlled for the Skytrain.
Free trial service will be held for tourist groups from April 13 to August 11, 2004 before the official opening on August 12, 2004.
The 300 billion baht budget for the Southern Extension [Hua Lamphong - Bang Khae] and Northern Extension [Bangsue - Wongsawang - Sanambinnam - Bang Bauthong - Bang Yai] will come from Wayuphak Funds (Krungthai Bank) to prevent FOREX risk and domestic interest rates which are still at low levels.
Nevertheless, JBIC also expressed their interest to funds the projects. However, MRTA will ask the government about funding issues.
Commentary: Using domestic funds is not a bad idea at all. It will boost savings deposit rates from the current frigid levels. It also allows us to buy and rent necessary machines at very cheap prices since there are no longer strings attached to the funds. Getting a JBIC loan will require buying the rolling stock as well as hiring the contractors and machines from Japan and their alliances (such as ALSTOM from France and ROTEM from Korea).
I hope that the Chao Phraya Express Boat will extend their service to Phra Nangklao Bridge to allow river access to the subway.

MRTA concluding plans for two subway extensions and one new line - translated and summarized from Manager Daily, September 28, 2003
MRTA Governor Praphat said that MRTA has come up with a plan to be submitted to the Traffic Policy Office in early October. This plan consists of the three most urgent projects along with preliminary blueprints.
1) Southern Extension - 14 km - 10 stations [subway from Hua Lamphong - Tha Phra, elevated from Tha Phra - Bang Khae] with a price tag of 30 billion baht
2) Northern Extension - Bangsue - Phra Nangklao - Bangyai - Bang Buathong
The first 11 km [Bangsue - Phra Nangklao] already have a preliminary blueprint. The latter part [Phra Nangklao - Bang Yai - Bag Buathong] do not have blueprints, but it is no problem to construct since it is all an elevated route.
3) Orange Line - Minburi - Bang Kapi - Ratboorana
All three projects will include a mini depot: the Southern extension at Bang Khae [near the Mall Bangkhae], Northern extension at Bangyai [near Big C Bang Yai], and Orange line at Minburi. Mini depots will use only 150 rai of land -> 50% of the Huay Kwang depot. The mini depots will allow minor repairs as well as a place for cars to wait from midnight to 5 AM--to be ready for services without having to go all the way to the Huay Kwang Main Depot.
The plan for these three projects have to be modified to meet the policy of 136 km in 6 years. The government will have to invest in the infrastructure to ensure on-time completion while asking the private sector to run the service or give them concessions. However, the concession must be a money making deal, thus tickets prices must float according to inflation rates to ensure profitability.
MRTA decided to cut expenses and shorten the schedule by not hiring a consultant to handle the detail designs on the project which will take eight months to complete. MRTA will use the preliminary plan instead and make an assessment on the unit cost before calling contractor bidding - the way Hong Kong Transit Authority and Sydney Commuter have done.
However, the underground section will cost MRTA 4 billion baht/km for land expropriation, tunnel digging, track laying, rolling stock, air conditioners, ventilators, escalators, elevators, screen doors and so on.
The elevated section costs much less than the underground section--200-500 million baht/km.
Commentary: To cut expenses on the Orange line, the section from MRTA depot to Minburi must be elevated so say good-bye to Ramkhamhaeng elevated way... Furthermore, the section from Taksin intersection to Pracha Uthit must be elevated to allow a via duct connection with the Skytrain... too bad the regulations state that the section within Ratchadaphisek Ring Road must be underground ...
The above ground station buildings that replace one underground floor must be blended with surroundings--Chinese style for Chinatown, traditional Thai, as well as neoclassic for the section within Ratthakosin Island as well as the section from Chitladda Palace to Bang Lamphoo and Wongwian Yai. And many trendy style for the section from Bang Kapi to Victory Monument.
If BTSC declines to make a route through Ratchadamnoen Avenue, MRTA should help BTSC... at the price for future integration after the end of the concession as well the extensions. MRTA should allow BMA to make a cross shareholding on MRTA as the compensation for losing their own baby (the Ratchadamnoen route) to the adaptive parent (MRTA).
The sections which have very few people [e.g. Phra Nanaklao - Bang Buathong] would be postponed. The sections with high density in urban areas such as Pin Klao and Sanam Luang or the suburbs with strong magnets such as Muangthong Thani, Yingcharoen Market, Phra Padaeng or so would get priority.

Who wants what in subway stations - October 1, 2003
Earlier this week we ran an article about commercial development in subway stations (Commercial development in 11 subway stations & other subway news - translated and summarized from Manager Daily, September 24, 2003), but the article did not mention all 11 parties involved in the bidding. The complete list in Thansetthakij, September 28 - October 1, 2003:
1) Central Patthana PCL
2) The Mall Group Co.Ltd.
3) MBK Development PCL
4) Siam Family Mart Co.Ltd [the local franchise holder of the Japanese Family Mart - a rival to 7-11].
5) Pacific Retail [the former manager of World Trade Center]
6) Britan Place [run by Mr. Weeradej Techaphaiboon - sun of Mr. Uthane Techaphaiboon - the former owner of World Trade center]
7) A Hong Kong retailer [probably Watsons]
The conclusion of the bidding will be known in November 2003. Some want to globble all 11 stations as a single big package while the others want all 11 stations, but in smaller packets (space in each station for a convenience store) and some only want only a few big ones. Therefore, the settlement is not easy. The Mall offers restaurants, MBK offer clothes, Pacific want to make a mini WTC, Family Mart just wants just convenience stores [Note: 7-11 or even CP is not represented here--pretty strange]
.

Interchanges between the Subway and Skytrain--MRTA constructing & BTSC paying - translated and summarized from Thairath, September 26, 2003
Governor Praphat [MRTA Governor] said Traffic Policy is asking MRTA to design and construct the three interchanges and the construction expense has to be paid by BTSC since the interchanges must be completed before the official opening on August 12, 2004.
Director Chookiat (MRTA Construction Department) said that Sukhumvit-Asok and Mochit-Chatuchak section already have physical interchanges. However, MRTA needs to construct short routes with protecting roofs to protect passengers from getting soaked by rain or burnt by the sun.
The connection between Silom-Saladaeng just has the preliminary design done by the contractor. This connection will be a via duct connecting Saladaeng to Silom--200 meters long and 4 meters wide--following the BTSC track on Silom Road.
Now the contractor has come to survey the underground infrastructure to be removed to make the way for the new support pillars every 30 meters. It need 7 pillars. The Traffic Policy Office, BMA and BTSC have already approved the plan and the estimated expense is being calculated (not more than 100 million baht).
More on the Bangkok Subway & Bangkok Skytrain
Commentary: I hope that the Silom via duct will connect with Dusit Thani and Robinson Silom. Without a connection, passengers of Skytrain and Subway will suffer from the same misery as those who ride the KL Monorail and then connect with the Putra, Star, KL Kommuter or KLIA Express...


Commercial development in 11 subway stations & other subway news - translated and summarized from Manager Daily, September 24, 2003
Sumbut Kijjarak said the break even point for the subway is 400,000 passengers a day even though the number of passengers in the first year will be 240,000-260,000 passenger a day and it would take 5 years to break even -> using 10% increasing rate and an average fair of 20-25 baht [5-6 stations].
The main revenue (95%) will come from tickets and the other 5% will come from advertising and space rental. The expense will come from the 7.8% annual interest rate from domestic banks (about 7-800 million baht) and the operating expense 1.5 billion baht a year - total 2.2-2.3 billion baht a year -> estimated 6 million Baht a day. Inflation rate will be the main reason for raising the fair ... but BMCL is trying to ensure that it will not turn into a big problem like the 2nd stage Expressway.
There will be 11 stations with a total space of 29,000 sq-meter for commercial development:
1 Klong Toei
2 Queen Sirikit National Convention Center
3 Sukhumvit
4 Phetburi
5 Rama 9
6 Thai Cultural Center
7 Ratchadaphisek
8 Lad Phrao
9 Phaholyothin
10 Chatuchak Park
11 Kamphaengphet
Rail level at the 1st floor, concourse level at the 2nd floor the 3rd level for the platform floor.
There are already 8 retailers scrambling for the commercial development
1) Central Patthana
2) The Mall Group
3) Robinson
4) World Trade [Central World?]
[The other 4 are not mentioned.] The final result for the best deal will come up in November 2003.
The commercial development should not block security...
BMCL said it will offer 30% of shares during the IPO from stock held by Ch. Karnchang. So far, Asian business persons have shown strong interest to buy shares--some domestic creditors as well as local business persons... and international financial institutes and those who run mass transit systems such as Hong Kong MTR.
The current share allocation for BMCL is:
1) Ch. Karnchang PCL 67.5%
2) Bangkok Expressway PCL [Ch. Karnchang's Subsidiary] 15%
3) Krungthai Bank PCL 10%
4) Thai Military Bank PCL 5%
5) Siam City Bank 2.5%

For the extensions of the Blue line subway (the southern section and the northern ring), BMCL said that it will definitely compete for bidding. However, MRTA has not made a clear signal whether the government will invest in the infrastructure while the private concession holder invests in new sets of rolling stocks, maintenance system installation and service as in the first section.

Test run for subway by the end of October - translated and summarized from Dailynews, September 24, 2003
Sombut Kijjalux, Manager of BMCL, said the first set of rolling stock will arrive in Thailand by air by October 15, 2003 and will have a test run within a week after delivery. The other 18 sets will be delivered by ship. The system will be open for a test run on Songkran Day 2004 and the official opening on Mother Day 2004.
For the first year rate, it will be 12-31 baht (half a price for students) and after a year the normal rate will be 14-36 baht (half a price for students). The fare rate will be raised every two years according to inflation. If there is a fraction of baht, it will not be rounded to 5 or 10 baht as BTS Skytrain and BECL Expressway have done.
If the inflation rate is below the threshold for raising prices, the prices will be frozen. If inflation rate is below the "zero inflation rate", the prices will be cut.
There will be 250,000 passengers a day from the average rate of 5-6 stations per trip. 5-6 million baht a day revenue and the number of passengers will be increase by 10-12%. BMCL expects to meet this goal easily due to convenient and state-of-the-arts facilities. It will take about 5 years to break even. Bangkokians make 11 million trips a day and the subway would cover only 1-2% of those trips...

A tale of three newspapers - September 24, 2004
All three are articles below are apparently from a briefing by Sombat Kitjalaksana, Bangkok Metro Co managing director. The Thai-language Manager Daily mentions when the cars will be delivered, specific ticket prices, hiring, and training in Hong Kong, but not the business partnership with Hong Kong. The Nation makes the Hong Kong partnership its headline, but omits some of the specifics of Manager Daily. The Bangkok Post merely reports stats about expected ridership and the background of the subway project (which is also contained in the other two newspapers).

Welcome for new subway rolling stock in the mid-October - translated and summarized from Manager Daily, September 23, 2003
Thai people will welcome to Thailand the first set of rolling stock delivered by three airplanes in mid-October with a delivery cost of 50 million baht (1 million Euro). The other 18 will be delivered by ship to Laem Chabang...
The ticket price for a single trip is 14-36 baht with a 15% discount in the first year and price readjustment for every 2 years using the inflation rate as a way to raise the price.
BMCL has hired 712 personnel to handle security, technical matters and human resources... BMCL has been sending some personnel to be trained with the Hong Kong Transit Authority since February 2003.

 

MRT of Hong Kong good Bangkok subway partner - The Nation, September 24, 2003
MRT Corporation of Hong Kong has been identified as having the strongest potential as a strategic partner to buy 20-30 per cent of the underground metro-line operator, Bangkok Metro CO Ltd.

Subway operator sees profits ahead - Bangkok Post, September 24, 2003

More on the Bangkok Subway


Thai Cultural Centre subway station - The Nation, September 19, 2003
Something about the Thai Cultural Center subway station and the painting there by Belgian artist Rudi Pillen: Those in attendance were immediately captivated by the grandeur of the 10x2 metre masterpiece.... The great artwork will be permanently displayed at the subway station, reminding passers-by of the beauty and wisdom that elude us while we busy ourselves with other things.

MRTA development plan folds - translated and summarized from Prachachart Thurakij, August 21-24, 2003
The BMA and City Planning Dept. has refused to readjust the color of 691-rai MRTA Depot and Maintenance Area from Blue (Bureaucrat Office) to Red (Commercial Area) even MRTA has lobbied hard to make the change. BMA warned MRTA that if BMA changes the color from blue to red, MRTA must confront the former landowners who have surrendered their land plots for the MRTA depot.
Many people say the reason BMA refuses to fulfill the request of MRTA is due to MRTA's strong connection with CH. Karnchang. Therefore, Premier Thaksin has ordered BMA not to change the color of the area to allow commercial development to starve Ch. Karnchang so they they are forced to merge with Skytrain even though Skytrain does not get any support from the government besides the BOI investment package.
Even if those who surrendered their land to MRTA agree to allow commercial development on MRTA land, the development might not be worthy since it is expected that SRT is going to develop the land around Makkasan Station--with government supports. And the area around Ratchadaphisek is going to be developed as hotels and malls sapping much of the value of MRTA land. By the time the MRTA plan has been approved, there may be no demand.
Therefore, MRTA could only be allowed to construct a park and stadium since parks and stadiums are considered a public good. Another usage might be the new SRT depot...
[Background on this controversy is here: Was Central Lat Prao really built on a garbage dump? The point is that land expropriated by SRT and later used to build Central Lat Prao caused such an uproar (since farmers gave up their land for the good of the nation) that a specific article in the 1997 Thai Constitution was created prohibiting expropriations being used except for public utilities and related matters.]

Public Land for Development - translated and summarized from Prachachart Thurakij, August 21-24, 2003
The commercial development of MRTA land become more uncertain. However, commercial development of 14,000 rai of SRT land has been revived at full speed. From 250,000 rai of SRT land, only 14,000 rai is commercially viable - with a price tag of 112.5 billion baht. 3800 rai of viable area is in Bangkok with a price tag of 63 billion baht and the other 10,200 rai in the provincial areas with a price tag of 49.5 billion baht.
So far, SRT receives ONLY only 623 million baht revenue from SRT land--464 million from rent and 113 million from debt collecting and 46 million from projects.
SRT has come up with a new rate of land leasing and the new commercial development of 11 land plots such as
1) Mae Nam Station around Chong Nonsee
2) Phaholyothin
For the short term, both areas will be leased for park and ride to the Skytrain and Suybway--a 10 year contract with revenue of 18 million baht.
3) Rama IX area - 17 rai with a 3-year contract (some parts cannot be developed due to the problem about the color code (zoning))
By the end of 2003, SRT will receive nearly a billion baht of revenue from land development with an increasing rate of 5-10%.
For the area around Phahoyothin (Bangsue) depot, it will become the 2nd Hualamphong station and Makkasan depot will become the transportation center and Airport Link.
The 2325-rai of Phaholyothin area is the main target since the viable but undeveloped area is 1279 rai -> the main target for the connection between Subway, Skytrain, Railway and High Speed Railway -> The Bangkok Metropolitan Transportation Hub which consists of the following five sections:
1) Intermodal corridor (integration of Bangsue Junction, Phaholyothin Station, Mochit 2, and the monorail ring linking all the Skytrain, Subway, Railway, and Interprovincial buses together)
2) International Business Center
3) Future expansion
4) Separated Development and Existing Parcel (PTT Building, Central Lad Phrao, BOI Building)
5) The park (the integration of 3 parks into 1 giant park)
The first phase (4 year) is for Transit Concourse, Plaza, the connection with the Airport (after the Airport Link has been extended to Bangsue), commercial area, and the new Bangkok Main Station.
The second phase involves the new Railway Hotel, office for rent, and the new Mochit Bus terminal.
For the case of Manam Station (area of 275 rai), after the land leasing contract between
oil companies and SRT expires in 2012, SRT will ask oil companies to move their oil depots to Sri Racha, Laem Chabang or Rayong to allow commercial development of Mae Nam stations linking with Silom.
For the case of 572 rai of Makkasan Station (from a total of 619 rai which includes Makkasan Lake and surrounding area reserved for flood control), it is the target area for the Airport Link with other mass transit systems and force the old Makkasan depot to stay on MRTA land at Rama IX since Bangsue is going to have commercial development--a way to hurt MRTA and Ch. Karnchang.

Golden land at subway stations and future route plans - translated and summarized from Prachachart Thurakij, June 26-29 2003
Retailers are rushing to negotiate with MRTA and BMCL to lease space around subway stations even though the Blue line is not open yet.
MRTA Deputy Director Wijit Wacharin told the press that the commercial areas for MRTA will be separated into two sections:
1) the body of rolling stock and the area within subway stations (BMCL jurisdiction)
2) the area within a 300-500 meter radius of stations (MRTA jurisdiction)
BMCL got the right to develop 11 subway stations, the body of rolling stock, and underground areas of Park and Ride facilities according to the concession. MRTA will handle the commercialization of the areas outside the stations and the MRTA depot.
MRTA has spent 8 years and 120 billion baht (65 billion baht from a JBIC loan and the rest from local creditors) to dig double tunnels for the subway route.
Landowners and the investors could make a short-term gain by creating parking lots, food courts, supermarkets, shops, stalls, advertising poles, and rental offices.
The middle term (2006-2011) will be the same as short term (2003-2006), but with new competitors. The giant investors with deep pockets and experience will have developed the land along the subway lines which they have gobbled up and created trade centers, highrise condominiums, and international-level markets. CP Group (agribusiness giant) will be the first to come up with such a plan since it controls land near MCOT and Asok intersection. Fortune Town and Fortune Hotel also very closed to Rama IX station. The via duct connecting Fortune Town and Fortune Hotel with Rama IX station alone will render CP land at Fortune Town a bonanza.
After the new masterplan becomes a reality the seven subway stations will become interchanges with other transportation modes: Queen Sirikit for the Blue Line Ring subway, Sukhumvit for Skytrain, Phetburi for SRT railway, Rama IX for cars which go along Rama IX road and Bangkok-Chonburi Motorway, Thai Cultural Center for the
Interchange with Orange Line, Ratchadaphisek for cars from Lad Phrao and Ratchadaphisek and Lad Phrao for the future Yellow line. MRTA has come up with a land development scheme around the Thai Cultural Center--a 3-floor commercial building on 818 square wah of land (3272 square meters).
The long term (2012-2021) will see projects such as the residential buildings, offices, and transportation centers (especially at Bang Sue) since SRT has a plan to develop their land to become a second Hua Lamphong after moving most SRT services (such as Bangkok-Butterworth trains) to terminate at Bangsue Junction.
Even though MRTA feels bullish that kiosk and advertising poles near the stations will make money, they need to think twice since several shops have gone out of business at some Skytrain stations like Sanam Pao, Saphan Kwai, Phra Khanong and so on. Even Mochit terminal is not spared since the number of daily passengers is below the expected level (currently 330,000 passengers a day vs. 600,000 passengers a day). Furthermore, most Skytrain passengers prefer to go from one place to another as quickly as possible without shopping around the stations.
Therefore, MRTA has cut down estimates of subway passengers from 400,000 to 200,000 passengers a day.
After finishing the construction of 20-km subway, MRTA will start construction of the 13.8-km southern extension (Hua Lamphong - Bang Khae) immediately due to local demand. However, MRTA will likely terminate the route at Bang Wah to interchange with the 2nd phase of the Taksin Skytrain extension. MRTA is considering using the unfinished Lavalin track parallel to Pha Pokklao Bridge (a bridge parallel to Memorial Bridge) to reduce construction cost which is now at 2 billion baht/km -> after cutting down the station from 3-floors to 2-floors.
Even though the southern extension will likely to end up at Bang Wah instead of Bangkhae, many real estate developers still feel very satisfied since the interchange at Bang Wha will increase land prices along Taksin-Phetkasem road (now a very green route - with a Skytrain extension).
The 11.6-km northern extension of the Blue line and the 34.6-km Orange line are on the hold - unless the demand from local people increases. However, the first section of the Orange line (Bang Kapi-Thai Cultural Center) is likely to become a reality to pick up those who live around Bang Kapi and Ram Khamhaeng areas. The route from the Thai Cultural Center to Victory Monument will have to pass around the MWA water tunnel and BMA sewage tunnels--increasing construction costs.
Wisarut speculates on alternate routes if MRTA uses the Lavilin Bridge: If MRTA wants to readjust the southern extension to use the Lavilin Bridge, MRTA will have to redesign the route from the Grand Palace to Tha Phra and may need construct a new station to pick up passengers at Saphan Phut (Memorial Bridge). The station between Tha Phra and Saphan Phut would be at Wongwian Yai (the downtown section for those who live in Thonburi side of Bangkok) instead of Thanon Isssaraphab (near the Royal Thai Navy HQ and Wat Arun). If MRTA comes up with such a plan, the future Orange line might have to be rerouted to go along Phadung Krungkasem (the 3rd city moat - the route proposed by the defunct Lavalin project) instead of Klong Ong Ang (the 2nd city moat - the route according to the present MRTA plan). Possible compromise might be:
1) "The Blue line will be rerouted from the Grand Palace-Wat Pho to Saphan Phut via Pakklong Talad (a flower market). After that the route will be slightly elevated (not as high as Skytrain) to use the abandoned bridge [the former Lavalin route] to go across Chao Phraya. Then the route will go underground until it reaches Tha Phra via Wongwian Yai and then end up at Bang Wah according to the original masterplan."
2) "The Orange line will be rerouted from Saphan Phanfah (the terminal of Saen Saeb boat service) to go along Lan Luang road to Saphan Khao and then go parallel to Phadung Krungkasem canal to interchange with Blue line at Hua Lamphong and then go along Maha Phruettharam Road to Si Phraya (another place to pick up the Chaophraya Express Boat and ferry users). After that the new route will go to Klongsan and Charoenrat Road. After reaching Wongwian Yai (interchange with the new Blue line route), it will go along Taksin Road according to the old Orange route.
Klongsarn is the former terminal of Thachin Railway until 1961. Now Klongsarn pier is a flea market with the abandoned Sofitel Hotel--abandoned due to erosion of foundations since the contractors used very shallow foundation support pillars not deep and strong enough to withstand the continuing tidal waves along Chaophraya.
However, I am not sure if the cost of rerouting will be compensated by increased daily passengers from Wongwian Yai and Saphan Phut. However, Saphan Phut station near the pier of Chaophraya Express Boat will help MRTA pick up more passengers from those using the Chaophraya Expressboat and compete with the Skytrain. If not, Si Phraya Station will be the station connecting the subway with the Chaophraya Express boat. This can rival Saphan Taksin station unless the Chaophraya Express boats could go south to Phra Padaeng or Sadhupradit.
If MRTA decides to keep the routes according to the masterplan, the electrified shuttle boat from Thewet to Hua Lamphong will be a good substitute, but the boats need to have batteries charged frequently. Otherwise, MRTA will need to ask BMA to revive the shuttle boat service along the Phadung Krung Kasem canal.

U.S. security experts advise no restrooms, garbage bins, or benches for subway stations - translated and summarized from Dailynews - June 20, 2003, and Manager Daily - June 19, 2003
After taking the journalists to visit the Thai Cultural Center subway station, the tunnel nearby and the MRTA Depot, Director Praphat told the correspondents about the project progress as follows.
The overall construction - 92.09% done
1) Public construction - 99.96% done
1.1) Southern Tunnel (Hua Lamphong - Huay Kwang) - 99.99% done (0.01% late - should be finished by now)
1.2) Northern Tunnel (Huay Kwang - Bangsue) -99.99% done (0.01% late - should be finished by now)
1.3) MRTA depot and maintenance center - 100% done
1.4) Rail Installation - 100% done (just finished)
1.5) Installation of Elevators and Escalators - 98.89% done (1.11% late)
2) Concession - including rolling stocks, and installation of electrical systems such as Power Supply, Platform Screen Doors and Signaling -> 63.07% done - ( 2.37% behind schedule)
The first set of subway rolling stock will reach Thailand by airlift by the end of September 2003 for showing at APEC 2003 as well as for testing. The MRTA director said the system will definitely be open on Songkran Day 2004 by using the first 11 sets of cars. The other 8 sets will be ready for the grand opening on August 12, 2004 (the 6-cycle birthday of Queen Sirikit - an auspicious day for opening).
The system will be free of charge from April 13, 2004 to August 12, 2004. After August 12, 2004, the first year rate of 12-34 baht will be applied. After August 12, 2005, the full rate of 14-36 baht will be applied. Child rates will be half of adult rates to encourage youngsters to use the system.
BMCL are going to hire the personnel to run the system. For security measures, no garbage bins or benches will be allowed inside the stations since they can be hiding places for dangerous materials (poison gases, chemicals, explosive materials). No food or drink will be allowed inside the station.
There is also some discussion about planning to open public restrooms inside the station or not. Security officers from the US who went to see subway stations asked MRTA not to install restrooms inside the stations for security. If MRTA really wants to open public restrooms for passenger comfort, MRTA needs to send officers to make internal inspections as well as install closed circuit TV systems with additional cameras inside the restrooms. More on the Bangkok Subway


Scrambling for mall space at new subway stations
- translated and summarized from Siamturaki, June 1-7 2003
MRTA has set up a subcommittee to manage the development plans for the commercialization of land around the subway stations.
The preliminary results has show that there will be at least six new air-conditioned flea markets to support SMEs (Small-Medium-size Enterprises) near the gates of six subway stations (Thai Cultural Center, Suthisarn, Huay Kwang - Kamphaengphet - QSNCC - Sukhumvit) due to the high density of travelers at those stations.
BMCL has allocated space for commercialization at 11 stations - Kamphaengphet (in Chatuchak Weekend market area), Chatuchak Park, Phaholyothin, Lad Phrao, Ratchadaphisek, Thai Cultural Center, Rama IX, Phetburi, Sukhumvit, QSNCC, and Klong Toei with a total area of 25,000 square meters. BMCL will invest 300 million baht for further development of those properties.
However, the final results of the studies on the commercialization of subway stations were delayed due to SARS (Hong Kong MRT is a consultant for BMCL to handle the studies). Without the final results, BMCL will not be able to set the rates for renting the space and the size of units for rent--thus the bidding will be delayed indefinitely.
The main customers who are scrambling to space the land are fast food chains and convenience stores. The owners of existing malls and buildings also are negotiating with MRTA to construct viaducts connecting subway stations with their malls and buildings such as one at Asok (Sukhumvit station) and another at Fortune Town (Rama IX station).
Furthermore, three new skyways (with 12-meter height) will be at Chatuchak Park, Sukhumvit, and Silom connecting Skytrain stations with subway stations. Retail giants are going to fight for the new super center that will occupy the 500 square wah (2000 square meters) of land under the Park and Ride.


Polling for opinion about the Blue and Orange subway lines
- translated and summarized from Thairath, June 5, 2004
Director Prapha Jong-Sa-Nguan told the press that MRTA is going to hire an educational institute (such as Rajabhat Suan Dusit) to conduct a poll to obtain opinions about the current subway route (Bangsue - Huay Kwang - Hua Lamphong), the southern extension (Hua Lamphong - Bang Wah), and the Orange line (Bang Kapi - Rat Boorana). The poll will be conducted within two month period, starting from June to August 2003. The results will be used for planning to get government approval for the budget.
This poll will emphasize on PR--how much people understand about subway projects, the opinions about the project, and additional suggestions which MRTA will use to meet demands in the future.
MRTA is working on planning for PR before opening the project to ensure that people will know all about the project--especially safety standards--since the subway is a new thing and people will need a lot of confidence before using the system. Subway tragedies from the Daegu subway to the Sarin attack in Tokyo could give people a bad impression of a subway system so PR measures will be employed to ensure more confidence.

Business plans for the subway - Bangkok Post, March 10, 2003

METRO / Rot Fai Fah Mahanakhon - translated and summarized from the MRTA website, March 5, 2003
MRTA has issued the official generic name for MRTA subway system--METRO / Rot Fai Fah Mahanakhon in Thai). The same thing as the BTS Skytrain since the system will be a subway in the inner part of Bangkok.
MRTA has drafted a list of BMTA bus stops and taxi stops near the 18 MRTA stations to facilitate the passenger trips to/from the MRTA METRO station.
1) Hua Lamphong - 2 new BMTA bus stops
2) Sam Yan - 2 new BMTA bus stops and 1 taxi stop
3) Silom - 2 new BMTA bus stops
4) Lumpinee - 2 new BMTA bus stops and 2 taxi stops
5) Klong Toei - 2 new BMTA bus stops and 2 taxi stops
6) Queen Sirikit -National Convention Center - 3 new BMTA bus stops and 3 taxi stops
7) Sukhumvit - 2 new BMTA bus stops and 1 taxi stop
8) Phetburi - 4 new BMTA bus stops
9) Rama IX - 2 new BMTA bus stops and 1 taxi stop
10) Thai Cultural Center - 4 new BMTA bus stops and 4 taxi stops
11) Huay Kwang - 4 new BMTA bus stops and 3 taxi stops
12) Suthisarn - 4 new BMTA bus stops and 3 taxi stops
13) Ratchadaphisek - 4 new BMTA bus stops and 2 taxi stops
14) Lad Phrao - 3 new BMTA bus stops and 1 taxi stop
15) Phahol Yothin - 4 new BMTA bus stops and 2 taxi stops
16) Chatuchak Park - 5 new BMTA bus stops and 1 taxi stop
17) Kamphaengphet - 2 new BMTA bus stops and 1 taxi stop
18) Bang Sue - 3 new BMTA bus stops
There will be 4 new passenger areas (as a temporary substitute to park and ride facilities)
1) Sam Yan - in the Chula Hi Tech Center - a connector to BMTA buses (to and from Si Phraya and Rama IV Road)
2) Phetburi - in-bound section of Asok-Phetburi Intersection (opposite to the Embassy of Japan) - a new parking lot
3) Thai Cultural Center (opposite the Pork Kung Phao Seafood Restaurant) - a new parking lot
4) Ratchadaphisek - (opposite the Plathong Karat Building) - a new parking lot

Subway IPO - Business Day, February 19, 2003 & Thai subway boss makes safety pledge - The Nation, February 19, 2003 (And the same story a day later from the Post, the strangely titled: Trains will open from the inside)

Official subway update - translated and summarized from the Thai-language Bangkok Metro website, February 17, 2003
The latest route map is here. For the progress in construction the 1st phase of Blue Line- 99.54% complete (behind by 0.35%), overall progress - 83.03 % (behind by 12.50%). Opening date - April 13, 2004 (Hua Lamphong and Bangsue). This is made possible by a 10 million Euro payment to Siemens to speed up the rolling stock production.
The Southern Extension to start by the end of 2003?
PM Thaksin asked MRTA not to use the design and build process since he does not want the budget to increase. He has asked MRTA to cut the construction cost by 30% and add as much local content as possible. Thus MRTA will reduce the underground floors by one floor (the accommodation floor/floor for the shops) and will try other ways to further cut costs so as to start the construction by the end of 2003.
Northern Extension and Orange Line on hold
Only an environmental assessment will be performed on the Northern Extension and Orange line, as the economy has not yet recovered.
Note: MRTA should consider running feeder boats along the canals to pick the passengers who live and work along Phadung Krungkasem moat and San Saeb canal, but need to ask BMA if they are going to allow MRTA to do so. If not, then MRTA would need to ask BMA to extend boat service along the canals. BMTA also needs to reroute some buses to feed MRTA instead of competing with them.

430 million to be paid to speed up subway car delivery
- Business Day, January 15, 2002
Bangkok Metro (Metro), the operator of Thailand’s soon to be first subway system, said yesterday it was ready to pay Siemens an additional 10 million euros or about 430 million baht to speed up the manufacture of the rolling stock to get the trains running if not on time then sooner than feared. The Metro announced a revised -- earlier -- date for the inauguration of its subway train services, They will now begin on April 13 next year,to mark the celebration of Songkran, the water-throwing festival, that marks the start of the Thai new year....The Metro postponed the proposed start after switching suppliers for its $315 million trains and operating system to Siemens instead of France’s Alstom....The construction works of tunnel and the actual subway system is reported to be about 99 percent complete and it just has to wait for the actual trains to run test-operations.


Want subway cars earlier? Pay an extra 400 million baht - Bangkok Post, December 28, 2002
First there was a long delay in choosing the vendor to make the cars. When Siemens was chosen, it was a shock choice as Japan loaned billions for the subway with the understanding that Japanese suppliers would be favored. Now the Post reports: Siemens Co of Germany is demanding an additional 400 million baht for the earlier delivery of subway trains-- in May 2004 instead of August that year. This is a telling delay. The parties involved only recently admitted that the service would not start until August, 2004. This article seems to suggest that the trains might not be delivered until then. That would mean months of testing before the service would start, delaying the opening until late 2004 or early 2005.

Readjusting bus lines for the subway - translated and summarized from Dailynews, December 18, 2002
MRTA has asked BMTA to readjust bus routes to move more passengers to the subway and to avoid competition. However, the joint ticket system has not been delivered yet, and after 2 years of proposal, it may not be functional on the first day of subway service.
The civil engineering on the subway is 99% done. Only work on details and decoration remains. MRTA said the first set of rolling stock will be delivered to Thailand in July 2003. For the bus route readjustment, BMTA said they agreed to readjust 24 air-conditioned bus lines. However, BMTA must clarify the readjustment and readjust the bus stops so as to feed MRTA lines instead of competing since BMTA is going to raise ticket prices for air-conditioned buses by 2 baht (to a maximum 20-22 baht). BTA must make a PR effort to ensure Bangkokians know about the changes on their familiar bus routes.
Commentary: MRTA found that the following four stations have suitable area to construct more park and ride facilities: Sam Yan, Phetburi, Thai Cultural Center, and Ratchadaphisek.

Ratchada flyover linking Park and Ride to be done on December 12 - translated and summarized from Dailynews, December 5, 2002
MRTA is going to finish the connection between the Ratchada flyover and the Park & Ride facility on December 12. The Park & Ride will be opened on Children Day in 2003 (about a year from now) to get some revenue for those who live and work in Ratchada-Lad Phrao area. The building is already done, but the toll collecting system and internal decoration are not done yet. The Park and Ride will allow BMTA buses, automobile taxi cabs, motorcycle taxi cabs, and taxi vans to be used to transfer passengers.
On Children Day 2003, MRTA will allow children to go into Park and Ride facility and the Ratchadaphisek and Lad Phrao stations.

More giant shopping malls spurred by subway development - translated and summarized from Thansetthakij - December 1-4, 2002
Retailers are scrambling to grab land around MRTA stations. Bonanza Group is hoarding land around Phahonyothin Station to set up a 30-floor hotel and plaza to rival Central Plaza. Central Group (owner of Central Plaza) is going to create Rama IX Plaza Mall to rival Fortune Town. Robinson and Dusit Thani group are creating Shopping Plaza near Silom Station after readjusting the buildings around Dusit Thani Hotel.
Bonanza Group at Phahonyothin Station
The 115.812-billion baht MRTA blue line subway has spurred investment and land development along the route, especially in downtown areas. So far Siam Chatuchak Co.Ltd. (owned by Bonanza Group) has purchased 30-rai of land around Phahonyothin Station to set up a 30-floor hotel and a 5-floor plaza mall with a price tag of 4-billion baht. Bonanza group said that the first phase will be done and ready for opening on the first days of MRTA services.
Dusit Thani and Standard Chartered Building
Dusit Thani PCL (owner of Dusit Thani Hotel) are planning to turn the Standard Charter Building (not far from Dusit Thani Hotel) into a shopping plaza.
Central Group at Rama 9 Station - no threat to Fortune Town across the street?
Central Group (Central Patthana PCL) has 22-rai of land opposite Fortune Town to create a giant mall near Rama IX station. The cornerstone will be laid very soon.
CP Plaza (the owner of IT Mall - the second Panthip at Fortune Town) invested 100 million baht to give the IT Mall a new look. Central Group is not considered a rival since they have different targets - Central want to be a new Siam Square while IT Mall want to be another MBK. [There were previous plans to develop the land across from Fortune Town that were scuttled by the 1997 crash.]
Future plans for Robinson Ratchada
There are also the plans to connect Fortune Town and Robinson (Ratchada Branch) to MRTA stations. Robinson Ratchada is investing 140 million baht to have three markets at the same place - home decoration, work, and electronic appliances - after Robinson has clearing their debts, getting out of financial rehabilitation, and back to their business in the stock market. The area in front of Robinson Ratchada will become Ratchada Pavilion - night entertainment center along Ratchadaphisek.

Commentary: No Intercontinental Hotel for Paragon: MBK Development (owner of Maboonkrong Center - a mobile phone mall in BKK) has purchased 28.58% of stock from Six Continents Hotels (the foreign partnership of the defunct Siam Intercontinental) - with a price tag of 900 million baht to become a majority shareholder in Siam Paragon. Siam Paragon now has the top three local retailers as majority holders--Bangkok Intercontinental Hotels (the owner of Siam Center, Siam Discovery Center, Siam Tower, and Siam Car Park - experts trendy and teen markets), the Mall (a giant player in the family and high-end markets - developed The Emporium) - and MBK (leader for the mass market around Pathumwan). Siam Paragon will be completed in 2005.

More trouble for Bangkok's World Trade Center

On the other hand, Central Patthana still gotten stuck in the disputes with WTC tenants, the Crown Property Bureau, AMC, and the Siam Commercial Bank PCL over the World Trade Center. Central Patthana wants to invest in the centrally located, debt-ridden, and incomplete World Trade Center. Maybe its problems are a Royal Curse from Prince Juthathuj's family (the owner of Phatchaboon Palace - which become the World Trade Center).

Bangkok's World Trade Center (on the left)

Government demands the subway open in January, 2004 - The Nation, November 23, 2002
In issuing the directive, Suriya is also sending a signal to the authorities in charge of the construction of the Suvarnabhumi International Airport to ensure that the new airport is opened by mid-2004.

Subway cars to look exactly like Skytrain cars? - First cars to arrive on November 28, 2003 - translated and summarized from Prachachart Thurakij, November 21-24, 2002
If you look at the model of the 12-billion baht (350 million Euro) subway rolling stock model produced by Siemens, you would think that Siemens' engineers have modified the leftover rolling stock of the Skytrain since it has a very similar shape and red-blue stripes like the Skytrain rolling stock (also produced by Siemens). They are nearly identical twins.
However, the officers at Siemens (Thailand) Co.Ltd. told Prachachart correspondents that the subway rolling stock will be a brand new design, but Siemens decided to follow the Skytrain as a model for the subway since Thai people feel very familiar with the Skytrain. The 30-month time frame is so tight that Siemens opted to use the Skytrain as a model so they can meet the deadline. It is impossible to put Skytrain rolling stock to run in Subway tunnels without major modifications. Even the readjustment of subway rolling stocks' shape will delay the production by three months. Nevertheless, the MRTA specifications are very similar to the Skytrain rolling stock produced by Siemens.
The external parts of Subway model are almost the same as the Skytrain - 3-bogey cars, 107.1 metric tons, ability to carry loads of 152.7 metric tons, 80 km/hr maximum speed. However, the roof of subway rolling stock is a little more convex. The front mirrors on both sides will be almost high as the gates, and there are differences in the opening and closing of gates and windows, hand rails, driver cabs, and passenger seats.
The color stripes will be red-blue-yellow, red-blue of MRTA and blue-yellow of BMCL. Siemens hasn't decided where to place the MRTA and BMCL logos yet even though the future logo of the 6-cycle of Her Majesty The Queen (HM The Queen's birthday on August 12, 2004) will definitely be at the center.
Siemens will start producing the first set of rolling stock on November 20, 2002 - 12 days ahead of the schedule. Siemens will handle all aspects it can while purchasing some items from Japanese firms (according to the condition of the JBIC loan) such as the gates and platform systems, the ticket collecting, instruments for the high power system and so on. The first set will be finished and delivered to Bangkok on November 28, 2003. After that, Siemens will deliver three sets a month.

BMCL refuses to pay subway fine and other subway odds and ends - translated and summarized from Prachachart Thurakij, November 21-24, 2002
BMCL told correspondents from Prachachart Thurakij that they will refuse to pay the 7 million baht daily fine to MRTA since it is the government's fault that caused the 13-month delay. Nevertheless, MRTA promises that the subway will be open on August 12, 2004. For the commercial development of stations area, BMCL will transfer the responsibility of commercial development by making a joint venture with other private sectors which have experience and expertise with commercial development. So far, 7-11 is making a reservation to rent commercially-viable areas in the subway stations and CP group is planning to dig a tunnel connecting Fortune Town with Rama IX Station. Ch. Karnchang's subsidiary is planning to invest on an underground super center mall at the Park and Ride facility to add more revenue.

The woes of Ch Karnchang - The Nation, November 20, 2002
Ch Karnchang leads the BMCL subway consortium.

Subway start derailed until May 2004 - The Bangkok Post, November 18, 2002
Signing was originally scheduled for July 1999, with the service to start in July 2003. The signing was delayed for 13 months, until Aug 1, 2000, but the start-up date was left unchanged....He blamed the delay on the MRTA, which he said had been slow in having the government endorse the contract signing. It was not BMCL's fault, and the company would not accept enforcement of the delay penalty in the contract--a fine of seven million baht a day.

Subway redesign cuts costs by B7bn - Underground floors reduced on extension - Bangkok Post, November 13, 2002
Only 3% of Bangkok residents were being served by railways, compared to about 70% in Japan...

Connecting the Skytrain and Subway - translated and summarized from Thairath, November 11, 2002
MRTA Governor Praphat told the press that MRTA had discussion with BMA and BTSC about plans to implement free transfers between MRTA Subway with BTSC Skytrain according to the urgent directions from Premier Thaksin. MRTA and BTSC have agreed about the plan to implement free transfer between Silom Station and Saladaeng Station. MRTA and BTSC will handle the expense, but MRTA will pay first and then BTSC and BMA will pay them back later. MRTA is working on design details and summarizing the expenses for this project.
MRTA will construct connection routes at the gate near Dusit Thani Hotel and the overpass near Robinson Silom. After that, the route will follow the Skytrin pillars as a via duct to Saladaeng Station with a connection to Robinson Silom. Robinson will pay for the part of the walkway that connects to its building.
For other interchanges, MRTA is working on the tunnel across Phaholyothin. After that, there will be stairs going up to connect with Mochit Skytrain Station. The samething will be done at Asok/Sukhumvit Station. All three interchanges will be done and ready for service before the opening of subway on August 12, 2004.
MRTA is going to invite BTSC to discuss the tickets connecting the two system in the next few weeks.

Subway delayed one year - Business Day, October 25, 2002
What 2b has reported for years is now official: "The entire project is as much as 57.36 percent behind schedule and the BMCL has admitted the delay and said it would start operation on August 2004," he said after his inspection tour.

Full list of updated subway station names - October 18, 2002
Here's a complete list of subway station names (translated and summarized from the MRTA website). This week several station names were changed to be more in keeping with what locals would call them.

Skytrains in the subway? - translated and summarized - Thairath, September 9, 2002
MRTA Director Praphat Jongsa-nguan discussed with BTS about borrowing 1-2 sets of rolling stock to run in subway tunnels for software testing since Siemens will not be able to deliver rolling stocks for the subway until July 2003. The subway tracks and traffic control systems are done, but there are no cars for testing the system. Therefore, MRTA would like to borrow 1-2 unused Skytrain cars to test system software (to test parking at the station platforms and pulling out of the station, etc.).
Siemens has confirmed that Skytrain cars can be used in subway tunnels due to a similar control system, but Skytrain rolling stock requires new software since the rolling stock doors must be opened at the same time as the station platform gates. A new set of software will enable both gates to be opened at the same time without problems.
BTSC has used 26-27 sets of rolling stock (from 35 sets) and BTSC is ready to rent some to MRTA, but both companies have to discuss the period of leasing, payment, and transportation from Mochit Depot to MRTA Depot in Huay Kwang.

New Ratchada-Lad Phrao flyover - translated and summarized - Matichon Daily, July 25, 2002
The new Ratchada-Lad Phrao flyover wll be done by the end of August 2002 (with 2 traffic lanes closed for constructing the ramp to park and Ride) and MRTA Park and Ride will be opened for service in March 2003.

Plan to extend subway to Thon Buri gets support - Bangkok Post, July, 9, 2002

Subway extension budget rejected - summarized and translated - Daily News, July 4, 2002 & Thairath, July 5,2002
Office of Secretariat, Ministry of Finance (MoF) has issued a statement to MRTA: "Even though the Southern Extension of MRTA Subway (Hua Lamphong - Bang Wah -> 8.7 km) will definitely boost the number of passengers for the MRTA blue line subway, MoF will not approve the proposed 42 billion baht budget for the Southern Extension of subway since the government has a policy to limit the loans from the foreign creditors to US$1 billion (40 billion baht) a year. The Southern extension would gobble up all the foreign loans the government plans to allocate.... Furthermore, MoF would like to see the actual number of passengers after opening the service so that MoF would be able to grant the budget for MRTA according to the demands from the subway passengers."
MRTA has requested 42 billion baht for the Southern Extension of the Blue Line since it has to dig the tunnels without opening the road surface in the Yaowaraj area, Wang Boorapha area, and the Grand Palace.
Commentary: The government should encourage domestic creditors to grant more loans to MRTA and BMCL as a substitute to the JBIC loan. At least, domestic loans have no strings attached to buy and rent the equipment from Japan as well as the obligation to allow Japanese contractors to work on the project. Even though the domestic loans have higher costs (interest rates) than JBIC loans, domestic borrowing carries no exchange rate risk. Probably government savings bonds of at least 500 billion baht for writing off bad debts will be the collateral for loans from domestic banks.
More commentary
: Many southern Thonburi (Thung Khru, Bang Mod, Ratboorana, Bang Bon, Bang Pakok, Jomthong, Dao Khanong, Samreh) and western Samutprakarn (Phrapadaeng - Phrasamut Jedee) feel upset that OCMLT and MRTA have assigned the southern extension of the Blue line to terminate at Phetkasem area because they believe that the Taksin Extension to Phetkasem to Bang Wah would be adequate enough for those who live along Phetkasem (Bang Wah) and Ratchadaphisek (Tha Phra).
Those who live in southern Thonburi and western Samut Prakarn said they have to endure travel by bus (BMTA and private concession) which is infrequent and provides lousy service, compared to those who live on the Phranakhon side of Bangkok or even those who live along Ratchadaphisek (Tha Phra) and Phetkasem. Even though MRTA has Orange line (Bang Kapi - Ratboorana) in their shelf, it would take 10 years to start the project, 20 years from today (2002) to complete the Orange line project and another 10 years from 2022 to create the network.

Siemens insisting that rollings stock done on time, ready for the (partial) opening in August 2003
Thairath, May 22, 2002
Summarized in English

Ockert Van Zyl (CEO of Siemens (Thailand) Co.Ltd. - the producer of the rolling stock for BMCL) told the press on May 21 that Siemens will produce and deliver the rolling stock within 30 months from February 2002 which implies that Siemens has to deliver all 19 sets of rolling stocks not later than August 2004. Therefore, Thai people will see the sample set of subway roling stock within 2 years. However, the starting date for subway depends upon BMCL's decision.
Ockert said the company is gathering officers in the company (most are Thai officers) to run the the project and use equipment (mostly from Germany and Japan) to implement the project. So far, MRTA has approved the preliminary design of rolling stock done by Thai architechs and engineers in Siemens (Thailand).
The reasons for this company wants to import some equipment from Japan is that the company wants to make a good connection with JBIC (the major creditor of MRTA) and Japanese companies. Siemens will sign a contract with the Japanese company to supply Siemens with automatic platform doors and automatic fee collecting machines in the next two weeks. Ockert insists that the company will definitely supply the 19 sets of rolling stock on time.
MRTA has readjusted the opening date -> from partial opening at the end of 2002 to partial opening date in August 2003.

No early opening as trains cannot be delivered earlier
by Charoen Kittikanya and Supoj Wancharoen, excerpted from the Bangkok Post, May 22, 2002

Bangkok's first subway line cannot begin service before August 2004, despite hopes for an earlier partial opening, because the delivery of the trains cannot be brought forward.
Ockert Van Zyl, chief executive officer of Siemens Co, said yesterday the company would deliver the trains on schedule, but no earlier because the production schedule was already tight.
Bangkok Metro Co Ltd (BMCL) signed a 14-billion-baht contract last December for Siemens to supply 19 trains for the subway as well as signalling and fare collection systems. The task must be complete 30 months from Feb 22, with the deadline of August 2004.
The Mass Rapid Transit Authority (MRTA), the project's owner, had hoped to partially open the long-delayed 20km service from Hua Lamphong to Bang Sue late this year, and the full route in mid-2003.
Van Zyl said Siemens had initially proposed delivery of the trains in 36 months but the subway concessionaire, BMCL, had cut the period to 30 months.
Siemens had supplied trains for the BTS elevated system and that the contract had set the delivery at 39 months, he said....

Subway news - April 24, 2002
From various MRTA sources
MRTA has changed the station named "Bon Kai" to "Klong Toei" since Momjaoying Kornnikah Jitraphongse has suggested MRTA via her letter from Tamnak Plai Noen that Bon Kai commune covered from Wireless Road to the Maenam Railway (a railway from Makkasan Station to Port Authority of Thailand - now used ONLY for cargo transportation) while the area around the Bonkai station is called "Klong Toei". MRTA accepted the suggestion.
The construction of MRTA subway is about 94.25% done by the end of March 2002.
1) Southern Tunnels (Hua Lamphong - Huay Kwang) - 96.26% done
2) Northern Tunnels (Bangsue - Huay Kwang) - 91.80% done
MRTA is now dealing with the installation of electro-mechanic systems and decoration of the 18 stations.
MRTA has installed 72 ventilators (of 90 ventilators) in the tunnels and 56 ventilators (of 72 ventilators) under the floors of 18 stations. MRTA has finished installing heat detector systems within the tunnels.
3) MRTA finished the construction of the depot and maintenance center in October 2001--3 months in advance.
4) Design, procurement, and installation of rails is 95.11% done. Some subway rails and power rails within the maintenance center and the tunnels are still being installed.
5) The design, procurement, and installation of escalators and elevators is 85.77% done. MRTA has installed 50 sets of elevators (of 62 sets) and 245 sets of escalators (of 254 sets).
BMCL has finished the preliminary design of rolling stock and is working on the final design. MRTA will do the best to ensure that BMCL and Siemens AG deliver the 19 rolling stocks on time.
Momjaoying Kornnikah Jitraphongse
Some background on Momjaoying Kornnikah Jitraphongse mentioned in his subway update below: Momjaoying Kornnikah Jitraphongse is the daughter of the late Prince Naritsara (1863-1947). Prince Naritsara is considered the best master of traditional Thai arts. The Prince built Tamnak Plai Noen in Klong Toei area. Tamnak Plai Noen became a place to perform traditional Thai music and other traditional arts every year on April 28 (the birthday of Prince Naritsara). Prince Naritsara was the younger half-brother of Prince Damrong (both prince are sons of King Mongkut, but with different mothers). Prince Naritsara designed the garuda (mythical bird with a human body) symbol and garuda seal which became the national symbol of Siam (later on Thailand) with the Royal Proclamation of 1911 by King Vajiravut.

Workin' on the subway for 175 baht (US$4) a day
From Manager Sunday, March 10, 2002
Summarized in English, online in Thai here

[Here's an outstanding article about the simple men who toil underground. A photo of a ventilation tube (mentioned in the article) is here-> A tour of the construction]

The humming noises from drills and other machines underground are now gone since the tunnels of the MRTA Blue line subway are nearly done. Only less than 100 workers are left to work on the details and decoration from 400-500 workers who once worked on drilling the tunnels.
Only bad thing about the installation of the subway system is that since BMCL is still in financial trouble, there is a delay in the construction of the subway gates that will drag the project past the 2003 opening schedule.
Nevertheless, we should never forget those 400-500 workers who work from dawn to dusk like moles digging the tunnels and acting like a little gears pushing the project forward to become a reality.
Umporn Rottape (37 year old male foreman in wood section from Lampang) said that after going back to see his family, he got lots of questions from his folks about what the subway will look like. He replied that he hasn't seen the whole system ... only the rails and tunnels. He told his folks to watch American movies to see what a subway looks like. He remarked that when he was in the foremen's hut with air-conditioning it was very cool compared to the hot and humid underground tunnels.
Initially, Mr. Umporn said he felt scared and had no clue what the subway tunnels would look like, but he got accustomed to such wrenched conditions quickly. In addition to the security at the construction sites, the workers had to deal with tunnel digging--down to 15-25 meters below street level. The 3rd underground level (the lowest) is for tunnels and the subway platforms, the 2nd underground level is for ticket selling, and the first underground level is for commercial proposes.
Initially, there were two sections for workers to dig tunnels around the clock -> 07:00 AM to 06:00 PM and 06:00 PM to 07:00 AM. It's very dangerous work and a health hazard, so workers have to take a breath outside every three hours. Even the giant ventilator fans don't help in dealing with dust very much.
After construction progressed for a while, the tunnel became cooler due to shade from the covers. The 5th and the last section of major construction caused much heat again. The 5th section is station roof construction, filling, and restoring traffic lanes, footpaths and islet improvement.
For health security, doctors must be stationed around the clock .... and NO
EATING INSIDE THE CONSTRUCTION SITES! - OTHERWISE, YOU'RE FIRED!
Phet Boonthong (a 41 year old male from Khonkaen) said he is handling the construction of a ventilation system at Entrance 1 and receives 175 baht daily (about US$4 a day). The camp for workers is 200 meters from the construction site.
Phet said he used to work on bridge construction at Samsen before working at the subway. He could not be afraid of the 20-meter deep tunnels since he needed to get a job for survival anyway in 1998. He has had only minor accidents - stepping on nails, having material fall on his feet, and the worst of all was concrete dropping on his his head and causing it to bleed.
Phet and his friend are the first men to travel the subway - they walk along the tunnels daily. He said it is quite a strange experiences, but it will definitely be very nice if they have a chance to ride on the first trip of the subway (probably at 5 AM on August 12, 2004).
Phet and Umporn said they will be sad after finishing the construction since they have lived with the tunnels for very long time. They already have lots of tales to tell their children and grandchildren. They want take their children and grandchildren to ride on the subway when it opens.

Responses from readers
1. 175 baht a day wage? That's very little! Phet and co. deserve more than that! Nevertheless, MRTA should take a photograph of all workers and put their names along the photo in a museum (at Hua Lamphong Station) and let them ride free on the first day of operation - those rural people are working for the convenience from Bangkokians.
2. Phet & Umporn, you are REAL heroes! MRTA should make a hall of fame for the subway workers.
3. I'm glad there have been no serious accidents. I agree with Phet that the subway workers should have a chance to ride on the first subway trips. I'm really fed up with the traffic jams due to the construction. I hope that MRTA will finish the work and open the service as soon as possible.

MRTA pushing the southern extension to the cabinet - Expected to be open for service in early 2009
Matichon Daily, March 5, 2002
Thairath Daily, March 5, 2002
Prachachart Thurakij, March 4-7, 2002
Dailynews, March 4, 2002

Yiamchai Chatkaeo (Deputy Governor of MRTA) said MRTA is pushing forward the 13.8-km southern extension of blue line subway (Hua Lamphong - Bang Khae) to the cabinet. Initially, the 8.7-km section (Hua Lamphong - Bang Wah) will be constructed. However, NESDB has suggested that MRTA should push the southern extension to Bangkhae at once since the extension to Bang Khae would solve the worsening traffic problems in Thonburi, Rattankosin Island (AKA City Center), and Yaowarat area (Bangkok Chinatown).

Mushell Co. Ltd. told MRTA that the southern extension will save 14 billion baht annually in energy bills, cut down the cost from air and noise pollution by 0.58 billion baht a year, create jobs for about 5,000 workers during the construction, and boost the number of daily passengers for the 1st phase of MRTA blue line subway by 45,000 passenger a day.

The total construction cost for the southern extension will be 51.241 billion baht (48.214 billion for the construction cost, land expropriation, system installation, rolling stock, and an additional three billion baht for four subway stations in the city center and Thonburi, digging tunnels without opening the land surface, and creating the underwater tunnels). MRTA expects to open the Southern extension in early 2009 (probably April 6, 2009).

The eight subway stations with the most potential for development
Prachachart Thurakij, February 25 - 28, 2002

MRTA is revealing plans for development along eight subway stations to create the main businesses, apartments and condominiums, hotels, entertainment, and park and rides to attract as many passengers as possible, starting at Hua Lamphong station.

Prachachart Thurakij correspondents reported on the meeting between OCMLT, MRTA, and Mushell Co.Ltd. (a consultant company MRTA hired for 72.868 million baht). Mushell Co. Ltd. reported the results from the studies and design of connecting facilities as well as the land development around MRTA subway stations and the proposed southern extension.

Mushell Co. Ltd. has selected eight important subway stations by making a 40% consideration on transportation engineering, 30% environment,and 30% business opportunities. There will be three phases of commercial developments: short term (2003 - 2005), middle term (2006 - 2010) and long term (2011 - 2021)

The outlook for the eight subway stations:

1. Hua Lamphong Station
This station will be developed as the main business area with the service areas for commercial proposes. There will be high-rise apartments and condominiums, except for the buildings preserved by Department of Fine Arts. This area also becomes a transportation center and an interchange for those who live inside and outside the southern section of the city center, those who live in western sections of Bangkok, and those who live along the Chao Phraya River. The Hua Lamphong area also needs to have new and improved footpaths, more green areas, and shade along footpaths and the Phadung Krungkasem Canal.

2. Sirikit Station
This station has the potential to be developed to fit into the current BMA city plan. This station needs more facilities to add more convenience. The residential area will have to be developed to meet high standards, commercial land developed, and green areas opened area for a new public park (around Ratchada Lake in Tobacco Monopoly Factory).

3. Sukhumvit Station
This station will be developed as the main business area since there will be 2 mass transit systems (MRTA Subway and BTSC Skytrain) interchanged there, facilitating traveling and adding potential for land development.

4. Phetburi Station
This station has very high potential, suitable to be developed as a main business, trading, and commercial area since it is situated in an important business area. Furthermore, this station is connected with the main roads and has an interchange with 2 mass transit systems (MRTA Subway and SRT Railways).

5. Rama 9 Station
There will be a medium-density community with large-scale residential buildings, trading areas, hotels, entertainment (now, there are some "soap lands" (massage parlors) in this area), tourist shops (now there is "The Golden Place" [Rama 9 Branch] - an SME shop set up by His Majesty and Charoen Pokkhaphand PCL - a local food processing giant).

6. Tiam Ruammit Station
There will be many passengers using this station. Therefore, the area along the station will be an important business and commercial area.

7. Ratchada Station
This area will have a development for communities with high density. It will become a private residential area with related facilities, and additional commercial and business buildings along both sides of Ratchadaphisek Inner Ring Road. Since it is a "pass-by station" (not a junction), there's no important commercial area close to this station to attract more people.

8. Lad Phrao Station
This area will emphasize residential and public utility development, and a bureaucratic center. The private sector will have a big role in the business and commercial land development since there will be Park and Ride facility. The commercial area will be along both sides of Lad Phrao Road and the residential area will be behind the commercial area.

The Short term development states that MRTA has to improve the footpaths, set up hawker stalls, convenience stores, park and ride facilities (in the forms of buildings and parking lots), and new BMTA bus stations. All of them have to be done by the opening day on December 5, 2003. Hua Lamphong will be the first subway station to be developed in such a way. All eight subway stations will have commercial developments within a 500-meter radius.

Commentary: ITV has reported that MRTA is pushing the southern extension of Blue line subway so as to connect city center and Thonburi with other districts of Bangkok.
Also: Even though QSNCC has a plan to construct a 5-star hotel in the land of Tobacco Monopoly Factory since 1991, they have not started yet. QSNCC is at Soi Nana Tai (Sukhumvit 4).
Also: BMA trying to change the Huay Kwang district into Rama 9 District, but it has not been approved yet.

Subway update
February 21, 2002
Krungthai Bank PCL (KTB) injected a 14 billion baht worth of loans to BMCL after three private Banks (Bank of Ayudhaya PCL, Siam City Bank PCL, Thai Military Bank PCL) declined to do so to ensure BMCL could purchase the first batch of subway rolling stock to be paid for at the end of February 2002. KTB considers the subway project to be a national project with quite low risk. KTB expect that they will reap the the profit from the loan interest... (from Prachachart Thurakij, February 20, 2002)
The Civil Works section of the subway is 90% complete. Domestic creditors are going to give the first part of the loan to BMCL to purchase subway system from Siemens. It would take 30 months for the first set of rolling stocks to be delivered and the rest will be done in the next 15 months after the first set has been delivered (total 45 months). If BMCL fails to open subway service on the work on time, MRTA will impose a fine of 7 million Baht a day. (FromDailynews, February 21, 2002)
However, Thaipost (February 21, 2002) said that MRTA got lots of headaches due to the delay of opening date .... It may be very hard if not impossible to open Subway service on December 5, 2003. MRTA also is pushing the 14-km Southern extension project (Hua Lamphong - Tha Phra - Bang Khae) very hard so that the project will receive the budget approval from the cabinet.
The southern extension will have a price tag of 40 billion baht. First 9 km (Hua Lamphong - Tha Phra) will be a subway while the last 5 km will be a skytrain. MRTA will ask BMCL if they can handle the extension. If so, BMCL will be awarded the concession of the Southern extension.

MRTA Governor change
Dailynews, February 21, 2002
The MRTA Board has approved Mr. Chakkrawut Salayaphongse (member of ETA Board) work as an acting MRTA Governor while Praphat Jongsa-nguan has voluntarily transferred himself to work at PM Office from February 19 to April 19, 2002 so that the investigators could clear the 6.2 billion baht expressway scandal.

MRTA may try to seek new partner - Bangkok Metro has a month to get loans
by Supoj Wancharoen, excerpted from the Bangkok Post, February 12, 2002

The Mass Rapid Transit Authority might look for a new concessionaire if Bangkok Metro Co fails to secure its first batch of loans within the month to buy subway trains. MRTA governor Prapat Chongsanguan went to Germany last month to inspect operations at Siemens, the firm BMCL contracted to supply electric trains. He said Siemens could deliver the first subway train in 17 months if BMCL secured the first lot of loans within this month (actually by Feb 28, 2002). But the train delivery and the subway's opening schedule would be delayed if financing is further delayed, he said...

Commentary: MRTA governor (Mr. Prapat Chongsanguan) has been temporarily sacked (Feb 13, 2002) due to his involvement with 6.2-billion baht Bangna-Bangpakong Expressway Scandal when he was working at ETA. I suspect that Ch. Karnchang may want to receive some part of the 6.2 billion Baht which is the BBCD's compensation for Bangna-Bangpakong Expressway supposed to be paid by the government. (BBCD a subsidiary of Ch.Karnchang which handles the 2nd stage Expressway and Bangna - Bangpakong Expressway)

MRTA explaining to JBIC the reasons for not using the Japanese subway system
Thairath Daily, January 14, 2002

Director Praphat Jongsa-nguan told JBIC that the reason BMCL selected Siemens as the supplier for MRTA subway instead of Alstrom-Mitsubishi was that the price quoted by Siemens was 14 billion baht while the price quoted by Alstrom-Mitsubishi was 16.380 billion baht.

JBIC said the bank has no objection to the bidding process since BMCL has to get approval from the creditors before selecting the winner. However, JBIC felt suspicious about the way Siemens cut their quoted price to win the approval from BMCL and the creditors since the prices are very different. Therefore, JBIC asks MRTA to investigate the details of Siemens' subway system and see if the details have met all the criteria specified within the contract between MRTA and BMCL.

There was a rumor that Siemens will install the system used by the Skytrain to cut down their bidding price. However, Director Praphat said Siemens would and should never do such a thing since the contract with BMCL states that the MRTA Subway System must be a new Heavy Rail Transit System minted the factory, not a Light Rail Transit used by Skytrain since the subway system will be bigger and able to carry more passengers than Skytrain system.

Furthermore, Siemens could cut their price by transferring some of their men who had handled the BTSC project and related equipment to install the Subway System quicker. On the other hand, Alstrom-Mitsubishi would have to recruit new men and transport their equipment from outside of Thailand, so their price is more expensive than Siemens'.

There was also a rumor that JBIC is going to force Siemens to buy subway equipment from Japan if Siemens wants to get the approval from JBIC. However, Director Praphat said MRTA has asked (or begged) Siemens to buy Japanese equipment to calm down JBIC. Siemens said they have no objection to buying Japanese equipment since Siemens has to order some equipment such as the ticket checking systems and ticket vendor machines from other firms including the Japanese firms.

Siemens signs Bt13.7-bn contract
excerpted from The Nation, January 11, 2002

Siemens Transportation Systems of Germany has signed a 350-million euro (Bt13.73 billion) contract with Bangkok Metro Corp for the supply and maintenance of Thailand's first subway system....

Wisarut reports on subway news from Matichon Daily
January 11, 2002

1) Japan angry after Siemens beats Alstrom-Mitsubishi in the 14 billion-baht subway deal

Premier Koisumi Going to Grill Premier Thaksin during the Visiting to Thailand

The subway bidding has not been settled because Premier Koisumi is going to grill Premier Thaksin after Alstrom-Mitsubishi lost the subway bidding to Siemens. Premier Thksin is asking MRTA and to explain the reasons for choosing Siemens.

BECL and Siemens (Thailand) Co.Ltd. signed the contract for installation of subway systems and the maintainanace of the Blue Line Subway on January 9 which will be done within 30 months. However, Alstrom-Mitsubishi refuses to believe that they are losers in the bidding game. They thought that they were winner since they got the best score and Siemens is just the only contender (the other two bidders failed to be accepted). BECL selected Siemens since the company has no financial problems and the cost for the 10-year contract of subway system installation and maintainance is about 350 million Euros (14 billion baht) - 2 billion baht lower than the 16 billion-baht contract with Alstrom-Mitsubishi. Such a cost reduction would boost the financial feasibility, improve dividends for shareholders, and cut financial risk for the creditors.

The Japanese premier (Mr. Junichiro Koisumi) is visiting Thailand on January 11, and he is going to discuss with Premier Thaksin about regional trading. He will also grill Thaksin over the lost bidding since JBIC has granted more than 100 billion baht in loans to MRTA for civil works, but a Japanese private firm (Alstrom) would not benefit from the project even though they got the best bidding score.

Premier Thaksin asked MRTA to explain to Premier Koisumi the reasons for choosing Siemens. MRTA replied to Premier Thaksin that even though Alstrom-Mitsubishi got the best bidding score, the company refused to scale down the project until they submited the scaled-down plan in early January 2002 - too late to meet the deadline of December 31, 2001. On the other hand, Siemens promptly cut down the project from 36 sets of rolling stocks to 19 sets of rolling stocks with a price tag of 14 billion baht on time.

The subway system of Siemens was also heating up the MRTA Board since there were lots of raging arguments comparing the German system to previously proposed Japanese systems.

Commentary: Premier Thaksin had better find a compromise for both Siemens and Mitsubishi to settle the problems to ensure continuing subway financing from JBIC, make sure the subway ticket system is compatible with the Skytrain, and the subway opening ceremony on August 12, 2004 (the 6-cycle jubilee of Queen Sirikit).

2) Minister Laddawan Urging MRTA to install more cameras to prevent sexual harassment

Laddawan Wongsriwongse (Duputy Minister of Labor and Social Welfare) and Mr. Thapabutra Chomsewee (Director of Labor Protection and Social Welfare Dept.) came to see the subway construction progress at Rama IX Station. MRTA reported that the construction is nearly done.

After visiting Rama IX Station (a three-floor station - the biggest subway station), Ms. Laddawan said she felt very worried about the safety for children and ladies for using subway service. The dangers from petting, sexual harassment, and rape could break out since the station is underground. She said MRTA should employ every measure to ensure the safety within the stations. MRTA relied to Ms. Laddawan that MRTA has installed closed circuit cameras at every corner to ensure the safety of passengers. MRTA also asked the Royal Thai Police to send police officers to every station to stop any attempts to commit crimes.

Ch. Karnchang has the upper hand in the rolling stock purchase
Prachachart Thurakij, January 7, 2002

BMCL has the upper hand compared to the supplier after signing an 11-billion baht loan contract with domestic creditors. BMCL choose Siemens to implement the subway system due to price dumping while shamelessly tearing up the contract with Alstrom-Mitsubishi.

A source from BMCL (subsidiary of Ch. Karnchang PCL) told the correspondents from Prachachart Thurakij on December 27, 2001 that BMCL had signed the contract with Siemens to produce and install the subway system without the option to become a new BMCL shareholder.

The source from MRTA noticed that there was a surprising change in supplier selection done by the private sector. Before such a change, BMCL had signed an MOU with Alstrom-Mitsubishi and negotiated with Alstom-Mitsubishi without success. After MRTA issued the warning to BMCL that MRTA would revoke the concession unless BMCL signed a contract with the supplier by the end of 2001, BMCL decided to negotiate with Siemens instead. The result of negotiations with Siemens was successful. It was much cheaper than Alstrom-Mitsubishi--about 10-15 billion baht for 19 sets of rolling stock in baht and Euro denomination for the initial 26.045 billion baht.

Now, BMCL is preparing for the rolling stock design before delivering to Siemens and the company has signed the 11-billion-baht loan contract with KTB (Krungthai Bank), TMB (Thai Military Bank), BAY (Bank of Ayutthaya), and SCIB (Siam City Bank) to add in the registered capital of 6.5 billion baht. With strong domestic backup, BMCL has strong confidence that the company could complete the project without further need of foreign creditors (such as JBIC). BMCL is going to submit the financial plan to MRTA within a few days.

BMCL said the reason to choose Siemens was that MRTA had urged the company to make a quick negotiation. Before that, BMCL had told MRTA that BMCL had considered two suppliers for the subway system: Alstrom-Mitsubishi and Siemens. Before making a deal with Siemens, BMCL had discussed with both suppliers only about selling the subway system, not about shareholding.

Alstrom-Mitsubish failed to meet the requirement of BMCL--they could not cut down the production costs, it was unsuitable for the current economic downturn which forces BMCL to carry a heavy burden and may deter creditors from granting a new loan. However, Siemens agrees to reduce the production cost down to compete with other suppliers.

Sombut Kijjaruk (Manager Director of BMCL) told the Prachachart Thurakij correspondents that BMCL could change their minds even though BMCL had signed an MOU with Alstrom since an MOU signing is not a real contract signing. Therefore, the company could select the company which would have the best deal.

According to previous bidding, the bidding prices were:

1. Alstrom-Mitsubishi (French-Japanese consortium) 19.036 billion baht with Cokef Bank (correct me if I have the wrong short name) as a creditor
2. Bombardier (Canadian consortium) 19.321 billion baht with EDC Bank as a creditor
3. Japan Metro Consortium (AKA JMC - Japanese consortium) 16.888 billion baht with JBIC as a creditor
4. Siemens (German consortium) 26.045 billion baht with KFW as a creditor

BMCL said they took the new financial proposal of 16.450 billion baht from Siemens.

BMCL says Siemens' bid saves B1bn
Tender almost B2bn lower than Alstom's

by Charoen Kittikanya and Supoj Wancharoen
excerpted from the Bangkok Post, January 5, 2002

Bangkok Metro Co Ltd (BMCL) says it will save more than one billion baht by awarding a contract to supply subway trains to Germany-based Siemens instead of Alstom of France.
...
According to a source close to the negotiations, who asked not to be named, Alstom stood firm on its offer at 19 billion baht for the contract, while Siemens had submitted a quote nearly two billion baht lower. Siemens was declared the surprise winner of the contract last week, even though Alstom had earlier signed a memorandum of understanding with BMCL to supply trains and an operating system.
...
The delivery period for the subway cars and infrastructure is approximately 30 months, starting from this month. The project includes the supply of 19 three-car units and the complete infrastructure--signalling, power supply, communications and depot equipment--as well as the project management and the maintenance of the subway system over a 10-year period.
...
Design changes might also be needed as the MRTA and Alstom had earlier worked on some design elements, he said.
The MRTA is scheduled to open the subway's northern line from Rama IX to Bang Sue in December this year, and to have the rest of the system operating by mid-2003. But Mr Prapat said the start of the service might now be put back to the end of 2003.

Siemens wins train contract for Bangkok subway: report
AFP, December 29, 2001

Bangkok transit authorities awarded the German firm Siemens a contract worth at least 17 billion baht (385 million dollars) for trains to be used in a new subway system, a report said Saturday. Bangkok Metro Co. Ltd (BMCL) reportedly inked the deal with Siemens before the Christmas holiday last week, turning away bidders including Alstom of France and Bombardier of Canada, according to the Bangkok Post.

Siemens was given the contract because it was committed to helping find financial backing for the subway, which is expected to begin operation in late 2003, the report said, quoting a BMCL source. Alstom had been considered the sure-fire winner as the company had earlier signed a pact with the BMCL for trains and hardware, but negotiations with the French firm had reportedly failed. BMCL first called for bids from four suppliers for the project in 2000, with Siemens initially placing the highest amount at 26 billion bahtmillion dollars), the report added.

The delivery of the subway trains was expected to take 18 months, with another six months for system testing, the Post quoted Mass Rapid Transit Authority (MRTA) governor Prapat Chongsanguan as saying. The MRTA had planned to launch the subway's northern line in the Thai capital in December 2002, but have said the launch of the mass transit system would likely be delayed until late 2003.

The subway would be Thailand's second mass transit system after the debt-burdened Skytrain, which began operation in 1999 to help alleviate the Thai capital's notorious traffic congestion. Siemens also supplied trains and hardware for the Skytrain in a contract worth some 25 billion baht (566 million dollars). Thailand has a number of railway projects in the pipeline, including a suburban light rail system and an extension of the Skytrain.

Surprise win by Siemens over Alstom
Train and operating system contract worth at least B17bn
by Supoj Wancharoen and Charoen Kittikanya
excerpted from the Bangkok Post, December 29, 2001

Siemens has been declared the surprise winner of a contract worth at least 17 billion baht to supply electric trains and operating systems for the Bangkok subway.

The German-based engineering conglomerate, which also supplied the trains and operating system for the BTS skytrain, quietly signed a contract last week with Bangkok Metro Co Ltd (BMCL), the subway operator, before the company's European executives took a long leave to celebrate Chrismas and New Year's. The contract for the skytrain was worth around 25 billion baht.

Siemens was chosen for the subway project over Alstom of France, which had also lost the bid to supply the skytrain hardware despite quoting a price several billion baht lower. A source from Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS), said Siemens had won the skytrain job because of its commitment to help find financial support to the project.

Alstom had been considered the certain winner for the subway contract, however, since it had earlier signed a memorandum of understanding with BMCL to supply trains and operating system for the subway. BMCL on Dec 19 had signed a syndicated loan agreement for 11.15 billion baht with four local banks led by Krung Thai Bank to finance the purchase of the trains and operating system.

Alstom representatives attended the loan signing ceremony along with the Mass Rapid Transit Authority governor and Somsak Thepsuthin, a Prime Minister's Office minister. No executives of Siemens were present. The train-supply contract with Siemens was signed at the office of White & Case, BMCL's law firm, with no dignitaries present as witnesses. MRTA governor Prapat Chongsanguan said that BMCL had only informed the state agency of the signing yesterday, and said it would forward a copy of the contract next week.

The deal for the trains had been delayed several times, and Mr Prapat had set yesterday as a deadline, threatening to terminate the contract with BMCL if a contract was not signed. BMCL said in a statement that its negotiations with Alstom had failed after several attempts.

Christian Jackqui, country president of Alstom in Thailand, said the company was unaware of the latest development. He expressed surprise since he had met with BMCL executives yesterday to discuss some financing proposals. ``We don't know yet why the contract with us was terminated, despite the fact that we've worked with BMCL and the MRTA over a year and half on the project,'' he said.

BMCL last year opened the original bids from four suppliers. Siemens quoted the highest price at 26.04 billion baht, followed by Bombardier of Canada at 19.32 billion and the Alstom-led consortium at 19.03 billion. JMC (Japan-Metro Consortium) quoted the lowest price at 16.88 billion baht.

BMCL had set the reference price at 16.45 billion baht but chose to sign a memorandum of understanding with Alstom even though it was not the lowest bidder. The two parties negotiated for a year on terms of the contract, under which Alstom was to have a 15% shareholding in BMCL. A source from BMCL said that Siemens' offer was in line with the subway operator's policy, which required suppliers to help arrange financial support. Siemens also offered a lower price than Alstom, he said, but denied to give exact figures.

Mr Prapat said that, assuming the contract was valid, further talks were needed on train delivery and the possible impact on the subway's operation. Design changes might also be needed as the MRTA and Alstom had earlier worked on some design elements. Subway train deliveries were expected to take 18 months, and another six months would be needed for the system testing, he said.

The MRTA is scheduled to open the subway's northern line from Rama IX to Bang Sue in December next year, and to have the rest of the system operating by mid-2003. But Mr Prapat said the start of the service was now likely to be put back to the end of 2003 at the earliest.

Further details on the subway financing
December 24, 2001

According to Prachachart Thurakij (December 20-23, 2001), BMCL has lobbied KTB and public banks to become majority shareholders so as to relieve the burden on BMCL. BMCL could hold 15% of 6.5 billion baht shares instead of 51% of 6.5 billion baht according to the contract. Now, KTB holds 10% of shares and is ready to grant 11.5 billion baht loan to BMCL.

So far, BMCL can handle 89.55% of 2 billion baht shares (501 million baht paid - 17.9 million shares). After receiving the order from creditors to boost the register shares from 2 billion baht to 6.5 billion baht, BMCL decided to sell 14.9 million shares to cut down the shareholding of BMCL to 3 million shares. BECL (another Ch. Karnchang subsidiary) would handle 3 million shares while the creditors and suppliers handle the rest.

The stock allocations would be as follows:
30% for creditors
10% for KTB
10% for TMB (even though TMB flatly refuse)
5% for Siam City Bank
5% for Ayuthaya Bank - waiting for the approval from the Board of Directors
15% for BECL
30% for Ch. Karnchang and other local investors
10% for MEA (no problem)
10% for Pension Funds (even though Permanent Secretary of the MOF refuses to do so)
25% for Suppliers (Alstorm-Mitsubishi)

TMB and Pension Funds refuse to join with other public creditors to become shareholders of the subway even though KTB (Krungthai Bank), BMB (Bangkok Metropolitan Bank), and Siam City Bank become shareholders. TMB would prefer to grant the 3.2 billion baht loan (within the 11.5 billion baht loan) instead of following the MRTA plan to handle 10% of shares. For the case of Pension funds, MRTA would ask Pension funds to handle 10% of shares.

The 11.5 billion baht loan consists of:
4.3 billion baht from KTB
3.2 billion baht form TMB
2.5 billion baht from Ayuthaya Bank
1.5 billion baht from Siam City Bank
Term of Loan: 15 years
Annual Interest Rate: 7.75% for the first 2 years, MLR for the rest

Suphachai Phisitwanit (head of MRTA Board of Directors and Action CEO of KTB) said KTB Board approved the investment on the subway project by granting a 11.5 billion baht loan to BMCL and 10% shareholders. The subway project is a feasible public project and KTB has no problem about granting the loan since it does not hurt their investment portfolio.

Information on subway financing
December, 2001

Dailynews (December 4, 2001) and Bangkokpost (December 3, 2001) reported that MRTA said the opening of Subway will be delayed to December 5, 2003 instead of December 5, 2002 since BMCL and the parners (Alstorm - Mitsubishi, Thai creditors) could not agree on the amount of shares the partners should hold. BMCL has tried to do everything to keep the majority status (holding at least 51% of shares).

Matichon Daily (December 10, 2001) said BMCL plans to boost the registered capital up from 2 billion baht to 6.5 billion baht by the end of 2003. BMCL also invited the Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA) to make a joint venture with the company by investing 5.9 billion baht on the subway--with the swift approval from Mr. Sombut Uthaisarng (deputy Minister of Interior) who deals with both the Expressway and MEA. Journalists from Matichon Daily said there must be some irregularities in the plan to invite MEA to make a joint venture with BMCL. The Bangna-Bang Pakong Expressway scandal already caused bitter disputes between the government and Ch. Karnchang (BMCL 's mother company).

Even though the plan to invite MEA to make a joint venture failed for the time beling, it could come back again any time. BMCL invited MEA to make a joint venture on the subway since BMCL estimated that the company would spend about 5-600 million baht a year to buy power from MEA. BMCL would sell 10-15% of common stock (65 million baht) to MEA officers at par value (100 baht/share). After opening the subway service in December 2003, BMCL would be listed on the stock market.

Subway plan likely to go to cabinet soon
Route to be extended to Thon Buri
Supoj Wancharoen , Bangkok Post, November 24, 2001

The Mass Rapid Transit Authority will soon submit to cabinet its proposal to extend the subway to Thon Buri after the long drawn-out consideration of the National Economic and Social Development Board. The 13km route from Hua Lampong to Bang Khae will be elevated, except for the portion between Hua Lampong and Tha Phra. The construction is estimated at 40 billion baht and will be added to the first 20km subway system from Hua Lampong via Huay Khwang to Bang Sue, which is now being built.

The MRTA forwarded the plan to the cabinet secretariat earlier this year and waited for comments from agencies such as the NESDB, which apparently said the estimate was too high. MRTA governor Prapat Jongsanguan said the NESDB studied the extension and made some recommendations on finance and construction methods. The NESDB suggested the MRTA finish the detailed design first and have its contractor build the system in line with the design in order to prevent cost overruns, he said. However, the MRTA intended to apply the design-and-build technique to cope with unexpected obstacles during the underground construction.

The NESDB's method could not control the cost if the contractor finds an unexpected obstacle underground and demands compensation, Mr Prapat said. The design-and-build approach would allow the construction to start right away while the detailed design method would take nearly two years to finish, he said. The NESDB also wants the MRTA to arrange for finance without a guarantee from the government. The board said the government already had enough loan burdens. But Mr Prapat said the MRTA could resort to a soft loan from Japan Bank for International Co-operation if the government guaranteed the finance.

The Hua Lampong-Bang Sue subway is expected to be completed in 2003 and serve 230,000 passengers a day. The extension to Bang Khae should increase the daily passenger volume to about 400,000 since there were a number of commuters from Thon Buri, Mr Prapat said. The construction of the extended subway route should start late in 2003 and take five to six years for completion.

Somsak pushing MRTA to build skytrain to Nong Ngoo Hao Airport
Dailynews, November 16, 2001

Contract signing on October 19?
Dailynews, October 18, 2001

After a discussion between BMCL, Alstorm-Mitsubishi, and MRTA, the parties said the contract will be signed on the morning of Friday, October 19, 2001. After signing the contract, Alstorm-Mitsubishi is going to start the production of rolling stock from a factory in Singapore as soon as possible.

BMCL said the company is willing to let Alstorm-Mitsubishi become one of the BMCL's shareholders even though the company has not specified the percentage of stock for Alstorm-Mitsubishi yet. Alstorm-Mitsubishi has a 10-year contract for system maintenance with BMCL, so BMCL has to allow Alstorm-Mitsubishi to become a shareholder to cut the risk. However, BMCL must be the major shareholder so that the company can control administration without problems.

The preliminary share allocation will be:

BMCL Co.Ltd. - 51%
Krungthai Bank PCL - 10%
Thai Military Bank PCL - 5%
Bank of Ayutthaya PCL & Srinakhorn Bank PCL - 5%
BECL PCL - 10%
MRTA - 19%

(Note: BMCL Co.Ltd. and BECL PCL are Ch. Karnchang's subsidiary companies)

Story of the canceled subway contract signing from Dailynews
October 17, 2001

Wisarut reports:Dailynews reports that BMCL canceled the contract signing with Alstorm-Mitsubishi (at least temporary) due to disputes about stock allocation -> BMCL wants to become a majority shareholder (51%), while setting the proportions of the other shareholders as follows: 12% for BECL (Bangkok Expressway Co.Ltd.), 12% for Krungthai Bank PCL, and 25% for MRTA. BMCL has not allocated stock for Alstorm-Mitsubishi yet.

Furthermore, the decreasing number of daily passenger to 240,000 a day compelled BMCL to cut the number of rolling stock to be ordered from 36 sets (108 bogeys) to 25 sets (75 bogeys). BMCL needs to settle the disputes with Alstorm-Mitsubishi quickly since BMCL is four months late in ordering the rolling stock. If BMCL cannot open the service on December 5, 2002, BMCL has to pay a daily fine of seven million baht to MRTA.

Subway plan held back by new barrier
Project likely to be delayed as BMCL misses deadline
By Supoj Wancharoen Charoen Kittikanya, Bangkok Post, Wednesday 17 October 2001

Commercial service of Thailand's first subway, scheduled to begin in December 2002, is now expected to be delayed after operator Bangkok Metro Co failed to secure deals to procure train carriages and operating system equipment under its contract deadline.

BMCL yesterday abruptly cancelled a plan to sign a contract worth about 17 billion baht to purchase 25 electric trains and operating systems from train suppliers Mitsubishi Corp, Mitsubishi Electric of Japan and Alstom of France.

Under the 25-year concession contract, BMCL was required to sign contracts with train suppliers by May, with delivery to be made within 18 months. But four months have passed with no contract, raising prospects that the opening of service will be delayed. BMCL executives yesterday said the contract signing was delayed due to ``documentation problems''.

Reports of the contract cancellation caused the Mass Rapid Transit Authority to ask for an explanation from both BMCL and the private suppliers.MRTA governor Prapat Chongsanguan said a dispute between the supplier consortium and the BMCL on details of the joint venture holdings had led to the delays in the contract signing. Under the deal, the suppliers would also take an equity stake in BMCL, potentially as much as 14%. Mr Prapat said the suppliers wanted to minimise their shareholding in BMCL, due to the uncertain economic environment. But he expressed confidence that the project can still meet its schedule. ``The project still has time to meet the schedule if every party is more cooperative,'' he said.

The concession terms call for service on the first 10 kilometres of track to begin in December 2002, with another 10 km to open by mid-2003.

BMCL recently signed a syndicated loan agreement for 11.15 billion baht from banks led by state-owned Krung Thai to finance the purchase of the trains and operating equipment. Under the terms of the loan, the share held by Thai banks could be cut to 5.65 billion baht if funds could be secured on better terms from foreign banks.

Mr Prapat said that talks were under way between BMCL and the Japan Bank for International Co-operation as well as the French export credit agency Coface. BMCL is also required to raise its capital to 6.5 billion baht from the current two billion.

The concession terms require existing shareholders, led by the local developer Ch. Karnchang, to maintain a 51% shareholding through the beginning of operations. The company recently agreed to sell a 15% stake to Bangkok Expressway Plc, and has pledged to offer another 20% to a group of creditors. Sombat Kitjalaksana, BMCL managing director, said that this left 14% which could potentially go to train suppliers.

BMCL currently estimates a daily ridership of 237,000 for the subway for the first year of operations, down from original projections of 430,000.

The downsized projections has led the company to reduce its investment budget to 19 billion baht from an original 25 billion.

That made BMCL trim its investment budget to about 19 billion baht from 25 billion originally set, with the number of trains cut to 25 from an original 36. Each train will have three carriages.

Wisarut reports: According to the Dailynews, October 16, 2001: The conerstone for the Subway Control Center within the MRTA Maintainance Center will be laid in the next few weeks with a price tag of 11 billion baht and financial backing from Krungthai Bank PCL.

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