Bangkok Subway News – March-April 2004

Subway test runs - translated and summarized from Thairath, April 12, 2004, Dailynews, April 12, 2004, and Bangkok Biznew, April 12, 2004
MRTA Governor said Minister Suriya will come to open the subway system for a test run at 9am on Songkran Day in Thai Cultural Center Station along with representatives from MRTA and BMCL. [There will be a giant mural unveiled.]
The test run period from 10am to 2pm from April 13 to 18 will be arranged as follows:
Odd days (April 13, 15, 17): 9 stations open: Hua Lamphong, Kong Toei, Queen Sirikit, Phetburi, Thai Cultural Center, Sutthisarn, Lad Phrao, Chatuchak Park, and Bangsue.
Even days (April 14, 16, 18): 10 stations open: Hua Lamphong, Kong Toei, Sukhumvit, Phra Ram 9, Huay Kwang, Ratchadaphisek, Lad Phrao, Phaholyothin, Kamphaengphet and Bangsue.
Those who receive the free tickets must come to the station at the time dictated by the tickets even. They can take a free ride and then come out of the station only once.
The free rider can hang around the subway stations until 2pm. The ticket will be invalid after coming out of the stations. Furthermore, free riders must strictly follow the instruction of the BMCL-MRTA officers--no food and drink allowed. No pets allowed except guide dogs for the blind. No flammable items or suitcases allowed. Further details on the May free rides will be reported later on.
Since subway system is very new, MRTA has to limit the number of free rides to 300,000 and they have to ensure a fair ride to all Bangkokians. MRTA and BMCL officers work hard to handle the security.
The ticket system will use the smart card system which allow passengers to enter into the system without pushing the ticket into the ticket readers at all. Female passengers can even keep their tickets inside their bag and just allow zip through the gate and that's all [like the subway system in Hong Kong].
Furthermore, MRTA will have regular and adequate elevators for the handicapped and escalators in all gates.
MRTA is the 7th subway system in Asia - 15-30 m deep from the ground level (4-10 floor building). The stations are 18-25 m wide and 150-200 m long with 2 floor, 3 floor and 4th floor structures according to the condition of the land. The station design is simple, clear, with soft tones, and has no blindspots, no garbage bins or benches so that terrorists will not be able to hide nerve gas to choke the passengers.
Even though this subway line has not reached suburbs yet since the route is still within the central business district, it better than having no mass transit system at all. At least, this will cut some traffic for a better quality of life.
Tickets can be bought either from vending machines which sell smart tokens or stored-value Smart cards. Ticket price will be 14-36 baht (14 + 2 * No. of Station) even though the first year rate will be 12-34 baht. Children below 12 and those over 65 will be discounted by a half. There are two Park and Ride facilities--Lad Phrao (2200 cars) and Thai Cultural Center (200 cars).
Passengers will place tokens or smart cards into the readers and then the gate will open and the passengers will go down to platforms with screen doors. The inbound and outbound rails are at the same level except Sam Yan, Silom and Lumphinee which have to be 4 floors due to the space constraints.
Screen doors will cut energy bills and make a safe ride since it will open only after the subway parks at the correct position. We can see only lights along the tunnels and lights inside the subway cars. It take 30 minutes to ride from Hua Lamphong to Bangsue and the rush hour interval will be 2-4 minutes. The full service hours will be from 5am to midnight.
The security forces inside Subway have been authorized to arrest, check the passengers, and carry weapons at every station. There are also local police forces who take a look around the subway stations as well. Every station has cameras to monitor every spot inside the station.
The gates and open sections above ground are 1.5 meters high from the ground to prevent flooding. There will be a collecting pool to trap the water before it enters the station and the pumps to push the water out. Stations and subway cars will use nonflammable materials. Even the flammable parts will not emit poisonous fumes. There will be an automatic fire extinguisher to quell the fire in 45 minutes and the evacuation will be done in 6 minutes according to international standard.


Wisarut's free ride - April 13, 2004
Wisarut received his free subway tickets. Here's how he will use them: I just received two tickets from BMCL. Both tickets said you can go to Subway stations on April 18, 2004 (Sunday) and I must come to Phaholyothin Station on time (10am-11am). Otherwise, you will be disqualified.
I guess that those journalists as well as politicians will make the first test run at 10am on April 13, 2004 at Thai Cultural Center Station while those lucky few will have the first ride at Chatuchak, Hua Lamphong,Hua Lamphong, Kong Toei, Queen Sirikit, Phetburi, Sutthisarn, Lad Phrao, Chatuchak Park, and Bangsue.
However, the common men like me will have to wait until Sunday April 18 to have a free ride (at Hua Lamphong, Kong Toei, Sukhumvit, Phra Ram 9, Huay Kwang, Ratchadaphisek, Lad Phrao, Phaholyothin, Kamphaengphet and Bangsue).
According to my plan, I will go to either Kamphaenphet or Phaholyothin even though I found that I need go to the right gate in addition to the right station. However, I will get out at Bagsue Station at around 2pm. I hope that I will be able to take a photo even though photo restrictions will be applied inside the subway stations to prevent terrorists to get information about the stations so they can plant a bomb.


MRTA Subway - Impoving our mass transit - by Dr. Samart Ratpolasit, April 12, 2004
The grand engineering task which they said was impossible due to soft clay and the underground water table has become a reality after the test run on April 13, 2004--the MRTA Subway.
Even though MRTA subway is not at very first subway system in the world or even Asean, the technology is definitely second to none.
The first subway system in the world opened on Jan 10, 1863 in London. There were hundreds of thousands waiting in line along subway stations but only 40,000 passengers had a first ride. It took 33 years for Britain to build the first subway line--after a proposal in 1830.
The first Asian subway system opened in Tokyo on December 30, 1927. The first line was 2.2 km long connecting Ueno and Asakusa. The designers of Mitsukoshi Department Store had the advertisement that it was "The only subway line in the Oriental World." Mitsukoshi department store has contributed to TRTA in such an extent that TRTA has used the name of this department store as the name of Tokyo subway station that was close to the store.
This ad had effectively drew ten thousands to those who live in Tokyo to line up at the subway station to have the first ride even before the opening at 6am on December 30, 1927.
This Tokyo subway line carried 70,000 passengers on new year's eve, 1928. Now the Tokyo subway system has grown into a 300-km giant. Only London and New York City subway systems are more complex network that Tokyo system. The first subway line in Asean was Singapore's opened in 1987.
It took 6 years to make the Bangkok system a reality. Each drill that dug subway tunnel had the drilling rate of 10 m/day/set. There were very few traffic interruptions during the construction which is very good. Those who came to see subway construction said Thai engineers could drill to make subway tunnels and construct stations to become an underground city.
No need to worry about floods since the gates have been constructed 2.5m higher from Thai standard sea level at Kho Lak. Thus, flooding would be a serious problem after the flood has reached 3.5 m level. The subway cars will use nonflammable materials. Even the flammable parts will not emit poisonous fumes. There will be automatic fire extinguishers to quell the fire in 45 minutes and the evacuation will be done in 6 minutes according to international standard.
Every subway station is equipped with elevators and ramps for the disabled which many other systems in other countries still have not installed yet. It is up to the government to make a new BMTA air-conditioned bus to have the access for the handicapped in every buses so they can ride the bus to the subway stations.
It is a fair deal to pay the ticket at 14-36 baht after August 12 in exchange for this comfort. Even though there is a park and ride facility at Lad Phrao and Thai Cultural Center, there are not many people to use such facility since the line does not extend close to the suburbs. Only massive expansion will solve this problem. I hope that the government can do it.

The nationalization plan of BMCL and BTSC is good for the country - translated and summarized from Siamturakij, April 4-11, 2004
The price tag for BMCL (the subway company) is 25 billion baht (for stock as well as other hardware) while the price tag for BTSC (the Skytrain company) is 30 billion baht. The Government is negotiating with KfW and Siemens about the nationalization plan which allows 75% ownership by the government (MOTC + MRTA) and 25% for creditors and people after offering an IPO. The ratio can be changed to 51:49 so as to allow the strategic partners to handle projects.
However, the IPO must take public interest into account to ensure that the funds from IPOs will go directly to investment on extensions, improving facilities including new sets of subway rolling stock, as well as a local assembly line to allow local made rolling stock.
The funds for this purchase will come from 30-year Wayuphak funds with 4% annual interest rate and the government will take a responsibility when the interest is higher than the principle.
So far, BTSC creditors (IFC and KfW) agreed to cut 14 billion baht debts (35%) but the government wants even more cuts so as to put BTSC under the budget of 30 billion baht.
Earlier:
Suriya boasting that negotiations with Skytrain creditors successful - translated and summarized from Thairath, April 7, 2004 and Manager Daily, April 7, 2004
And Bangkok Post has the response to this: Skytrain chief lashes out at takeover talk Demands state deal with BTSC directly - Bangkok Post, April 8, 2004
Earlier: BMCL would sell the subway at 35 billion baht to reap 200% profit - Prachachart Thurakij, April 1, 2004
Earlier: More on buying the subway - Government counters 300 baht per share offer by offering to pay 1 baht per share

Comments on the subway stations - April 8, 2004
Discuss these stories on the 2Bangkok.com Forum
Wisarut reports: I have been to the following subway stations and here are some comments.
1) Suan Chatuchak - very spacious - even though Thai Cultural Center Station is the spaciest of all. I met a middle age men who said he has worked for ITD as workers to construct both Skytrain and Subway. I suggested him to tell the stories to his children and and ask his children to write down the tales as the way to keep the stories about the construction of both systems alive.
2) Sukhuimvit - pretty small station... needs a 4th gate at the building opposite Soi Cowboy [Emporium side] after the construction of the derelict building there becomes a reality.
3) Queen Sirikit - pretty big, but no traditional Thai decoration yet. The air-condition at the ticket purchasing level looks salty and the air condition at the platform level has chemical odor. The officers said they will make a weekly cleaning of the air-condition and may have to perfume the air-condition as monthly basis.
4) Klong Toei - pretty small, but tolerable
5) Lumphinee - an uncle who lives in Bon Kai complained that this station has too few gates. He has either to pay 14 baht to ride subway to Silom for the morning or evening exercise at Lumphinee Park or has to walk through the smoking Rama 4 Road to enter into Gate 2 at Witthayu Intersection to go across the street.
6) Silom Station - needs two new gates near Surawongse Intersection and Chulalongkonr Hospital. The escalators are very steep. The escalators at Lumphineee station are very steep as well! if you go in the wrong direction at Silom and Lumphinee (either head to Bangsue even though you want to go to Hua Lamphong or vice versa), you will be exhausted from either climbing up or down the stairs.
7) Hua Lamphong - this one has a via duct to Hua Lamphong Main Railway Station. The display under the glass pyramid is the foundation stone laid by HRH The Crown Prince.
Photos of some of the stations are here: First looks at the Phetchburi, Queen Sirikit Convention Center, and Hua Lampong subway stations

BMCL would sell the subway at 35 billion baht to reap 200% profit - translated and summarized from Prachachart Thurakij, April 1, 2004
[This is more on the back and forth of the nationalization of the subway and Skytrain: More on buying the subway - Government counters 300 baht per share offer by offering to pay 1 baht per share]
BMCL said they are willing to sell 100% of BMCL stocks at the premium to be worthy for investment--and compensating BMCL for not offering an IPO. The right to buy at par has already expired. If the government going to buy BMCL so as to integrate with BTSC and use the same smart card tickets, that would be very nice sine ii would cut travel expense. The joint ticket system is not conceived yet.
BMCL has delayed the IPO to the 3rd quarter to see the result of the subway opening> Furthermore, the bear market condition has deterred them from offering IPOs. BMCL has already broke the 100 baht/share into 1 baht/Share (with a hundred fold increasing in the number of shares) and changed the company name by adding "PCL."
The registered capital has been boosted from 7.050 billion baht to 10 billion to cut down the 12 billion baht debt and need to buy 2-3 sets of rolling stocks to add into the existing 19 sets for future expansion.
The expected number for the first year is 250,000 passengers a day (3/4 of the daily passengers of the Skytrain) to increase 5-7% next year.
BMCL said they might sell 25% of stocks at par (1 baht/share) but the other 75% must be sold at 3 baht/share--as a way to clear up 12 billion baht debt.
After selling according to the scheme, the government has to find 35 billion baht in cash to pay BMCL--covering the investment of 18 billion baht and 17 billion baht profit.
However, the final results will come up in May 2004 and MRTA will run the paid service from June 2004. The free service will be limited to 300,000 passengers.
MRTA is waiting for the extensions which are supposed to be started in 2005 since the cabinet has not come up with the official resolution yet.
All three extension have to be bid on freely without the reservation on the winners of the first phase.
MTOC has responded that this 3 baht/share to totally unacceptable since BMCL has given very little reason and used future expectations as a way to calculate stock prices. Thus the Traffic Policy Office and MRTA has to study the real price for this project.
Even though Premier Thaksin delayed the trip to negotiate with KfW and Siemens in Germany due to problems in the South, they still send officers to negotiate at the officer level before coming up with preliminary results by the end of April 2004.

More on buying the subway - Government counters 300 baht per share offer by offering to pay 1 baht per share
Translated and summarized from 'Ch. Karnchang shocked - government asking BMCL to lower the stock price to 1 baht /share - be fair!' - Matichon, March 30, 2004
Sombut Kijjalux (BMCL General Manager) said BMCL has lowered the par price from 100 baht/share to 1 baht/share to encourage more buyers when it offers an IPO in 3rd quarter of 2004. If the government wants to buy all the shares back, BMCL may not offer an IPO. If BMCL sells only 25% of the shares, BMCL would still be able to offer an IPO as planned since BMCL wants to capitalize the stock after boosting the registered capital from 6.8 billion baht to 10 billion baht since BMCL needs to buy at least 3-5 additional sets of rolling stock to meet surging demands.
The government has to ask Ch. Karnchang first before buying the stock back. However, the government has to buy at fair prices.
MRTA governor said Ch. Karnchang PCLK has submitted the plan to sell the stock to the government via MOTC. The extensions would be handled by the government.
Earlier: Buying the Subway
- March 30, 2004
Ed.: The move to nationalize the Subway and Skytrain is a high-stakes web of financial manuvering and conflicting priorities with the long-delayed Skytrain extensions being held hostage to the political infighting--but you would never know this by reading the news in English-language papers.
The Bangkok Post blandly reports: The Transport Ministry, which oversees MRTA, is negotiating buying back the subway system from BMCL, to more effectively manage the total mass transit service of Bangkok. BMCL managing director Sombat Kitjalaksana said yesterday that BMCL wanted a reasonable price and secure future for its trained staff.
However, in the Thai-languge papers, the jostling and positioning of the major players is well-documented:
BMCL stock prices--300 baht/share--price at super premium - translated and summarized from Thairath, March 29, 2004
Ch. Karnchang PCL told Minister Suriya that BMCL (the company that owns and runs the subway project) will sell stock to the government at the price of 300 baht/share--tripling the prices from par since the provision for selling 25% of the stocks at par has already expired. This price is fair to Ch. Karnchang since it has already included the investment, the difficulties for the contact with the public sector and so on. However, the government must buy the stocks before BMCL offers an IPOs in the second quarter and third quarter of 2004.
The MRTA Governor told the press that MRTA still has the full right to purchase back 25% of the stocks at par since MRTA has already issued the reservation letter to BMCL before the provision expired. If BMCL still insists that MRTA no longer has the right to purchase back at par, negotiations through mediators or legal fighting at the Administration Court will become the last measure MRTA is going to apply. If BMCL agrees to sell 25% of stock at par, MRTA may allow BMCL to sell the rest of stocks at higher prices.
Earlier: Ch. Karnchang purchasing more BMCL shares
- translated and summarized from Manager Daily, March 22, 2004
Ch. Karnchang (CK) is purchasing more shares from BMCL Co.Ltd, approved by the Board of Directors on March 8, to increase the registered capital from 6.8 billion baht to 7.05 billion baht through 2.5 million capital increase in shares.
This purchase will enable Ch. Karnchang PCL to retain the ratio of stock allocation in 23.09% range by purchasing 5,747,291 shares at par (100 baht/share)--total 57.7291 million baht.
Commentary: There was a similar purchase of BMCL shares by BECL PCL. Matichon Daily reported on February 28, 2004 that BECL has paid 37.5 million baht to purchase 375,00 shares of BMCL as the way to retain 15% level of ownership. BECL has no problem to pay for the BMCL shares at all since the company is a money-making enterprise.

Earlier: Government feeling confident about purchasing the Skytrain concession from the private sector - translated and summarized from Manager Daily, March 18, 2004

BMCL setting up Metro Mall as a subsidiary - translated and summarized from Prachachat Thurakij, March 22-24, 2004
BMCL has set up Metro Mall Co. Ltd as a subsidiary to handle the retail trading inside MRTA Subway station areas and hire professionals to run an underground department store with BMCL and Ch. Karnchang PCL as major shareholders of more than 50%.
BMCL decided to set up a new subsidiary to handle the department store since hiring other companies to handle retailing inside the station area will cause lots of problems about revenue sharing.
The underground department stores will consist of brand name products. After BMCL made an unofficial leasing announcement, there are several retailers such as 7-11 (Thailand), Starbucks (Thailand), O Bon Pain (Thailand), EZ Buy, and Se-Ed book that have signed contracts to rent space inside subway station areas. The main target is those who are not passengers, a different approach compared to BTSC.
The monthly rent rate is in the range of 1500-3000 baht/sq-m while the monthly transferring rate from previous owners will be 10,000 baht/sq-m, at par with BTSC Skytrain renting rates and the space for rent will be 4-70 sq-m.
BMCL is decorating the subway stations and the underground Metro Mall department store -> ready to be opened on August 12, 2004 (official opening date with a royal ceremony) at the following 5 Stations:
1) Sukhumvit, 2) Chatuchak, 3) Kamphengphet, 4) Phaholyothin, 5) Queen Sirikit National Convention Center
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