Bangkok Subway News – April 2004

Cell phone blindspots in the subway - April 14, 2004
Wisarut reports: For telecom blindspots, Thai netters have responded that even subways in other countries are mobile phone blind spots. The Tokyo Subway also prohibits passengers from making a call on the train since it annoys other passengers.
Earlier: Cell phone service in subway not complete - translated and summarized from Siam Turakij, April 9-16, 2004
Even the test run is closer and closer, BMCL and telecom companies cannot make a settlement on the telecom cells for mobile phones. This will create mobile phone blindspots. It could be very dangerous if crime, arson, or terrorism breaks out. However, BMCL said TOT and TRUE (the new name of Telecom Asia) have installed the telecom cells for public phones and PCTs.

Subway - Ride it now or wait four months for full service - translated and summarized by Wisarut Bholsithi from Matichon Daily, April 14, 2004
[Outside of well-connected diplomats, it appears that tickets were only sent to Thai people (not foreigners).]
On Songkran day of this year, Grandpa Lek and Granma Phutsa felt very excited that the Subway has become a reality and they want to make a free ride. They woke their children up at 5am so that they can go to Hua Lamphong station early since Granpa Lek lives in Salaya (Bangkok western suburb in Nakhon Pathom - where the main campus of Mahidol U. is situated) and Granma Phutsa lives in Samreh (a community on the Thonburi side of Bangkok - used to be a place for beheading the condemned).
However, they got stopped by MRTA and BMCL officers at Hua Lamphong station and were told that "Sorry Granpa and Granma, you don't have the permission cards, so you cannot enter into the train!"
Even though both old folks tried to appeal to the officers, the officer explained that they cannot let both old persons enter the train since it could create chaos at all 18 subway stations if they allow unlimited free rides during a limited time. Therefore, permission tickets are necessary and BMCL has asked people to send letters to BMCL to obtain 60,000 permission cards (actually, BMCL officers have to give 84,000 tickets due to strong demands from 42,000 letters).
Therefore, they have to accept the missed opportunities due to security restrictions. Nevertheless, Granma Putsa told MRTA-BMCL officers with a grumbling voice that "you should work on PR much harder! We just received the news that BMCL is going to open the Subway for a test run but we have not received another message that we need to send letters for permission tickets. If we knew this beforehand, we would have asked our children to write and send the letter to get the tickets." They also said they will be back when the full service becomes a reality.
However, lucky ones like Ms. Rewadee Mutalai and her daughter (Sitala Mutalai) waited for a while until it reached 10am (the opening time) to enter into the system.
Ms. Rewadee said she got the ticket from the Highway Dept which had requested BMCL to issue free tickets for officers. The ticket said "BMCL has guaranteed that Khun .... is a Thai person who has a chance to ride the first Subway line before other people! April 13, 2004."
Ms. Rewadee said she felt very glad to have subway line to tackle traffic jams along with the Skytrain.
When the first set of passengers entered the subway system, many of them felt very happy and excited since many have had no change to ride a subway before.
The air-conditioning in the subway set is so high that it creates moisture on the mirrors and windows. There were two officers in each bogey.
"Sathanee Tor Pai Chatuchak, Than Phoodoysarn Samart Plian Setthang Lae Tor BTS at this Station" (Next Station Chatuchak, the passengers can change the train to Skytrain at this station). The announcements the stations is in Thai first and then in English. Many praised that the announcers speak very well in both English and Thai--so well that they feel they live abroad.
Even though the government wishes to speed up the official opening date, the most auspicious date of all would be August 12, 2004.
Commentary by Wisarut: The MRTA subway uses a recorded announcement--a better approach than humans speaking by the drivers in the Skytrain do. Escalators in both directions and elevators for the handicapped are also a big plus for the subway.
This automatic announcement machine as well as the availability of escalators and elevators will force BTSC to modernize their fleet of rolling stock as well as the stations since many passengers-- local people and foreigners--have complained a lot about the poor Thai-English announcement.

MRTA governor explains subway 'free rides' to the public - translated and summarized from Manager Daily, April 14, 2004
[Many common folk are annoyed that 'free rides' really means rides for elites with tickets.]
After hearing the appeal for free rides from many people who missed a chance to make a free ride due to the lack of permission tickets, MRTA governor explained that this measure will minimize a chance for chaos to break out as well as to cut down congestion.
Tickets for free rides in May have been increased from 140,000 tickets to 160,000 tickets to cope with surging demand even though Mr Suriya asks MRTA to allow anybody to take a free ride in May 2004.


Subway System Inspection - translated and summarized from Manager Daily, April 13, 2004
The air-conditioning inside subway stations will have the thermostat fixed at 27 Celcius--higher than the 25 Celsius level for department stores since MRTA do not want passengers to hang around the stations--just comfortable enough, but not too comfortable.
The escalators will have to run faster to move many people as possible and for evacuation.
The Skytrain had run empty trains for eight months to check that the system had no problems despite grumbling passengers who wanted to ride the system. However, the Subway system is a much more complicated system--rolling stocks, power supply, air-conditioning, ventilators, fire alarm and extinguishers, elevators, gates. All must work at in a synchronized matter and thus the testing will be much more complex.
The government has invested billions of baht to come up with this system along with a 9 floor Park and Ride at Ladphrao, 3 floor Park and Ride at the Thai Cultural Center, and a small parking lot at Ratchadaphisek, Huay Kwang, Phetburi, Sukhumvit and Sam Yan - with free parking during the April test run. Security forces have been set up at all 18 stations since April 6.
There are 3 interchanges with the Skytrain and BMTA has readjusted both bus stops to stop near the subway gates and 24 air-conditioned bus routes to feed the system. If Airport Link and North-South commuters have become a reality to replace Hopewell, there will be new interchanges at Phetburi, Hua Lamphong and Bangsue.
Test runs without passengers from 4am to 7pm have been underway since March 1, 2004, and extended to 9pm since April 1, and further extended to midnight since April 5.
There are 4 sets of BMCL officers
(1) Drivers and Station Controllers
(2) Maintenance Officers
(3) Supporters to control the tickets and revenue from tickers
(4) Security offices and quality controllers
The drivers must pass through vigorous testing since they have to go through dark tunnels with lots of mental pressure. Those who run the station controllers will need to be service oriented. They must have at least a 2-year college degree. Most applicants (52,300 candidates) have 4-year college degree or higher.
Only 7000 candidates passed the writing exam.
Only 4000 pass the interview exam.
Only 3000 candidates passed the Color Blind Testing.
Only 900 candidates passed criminal record examination to face psychological testing.
The drivers cannot turn on lights while driving since it will blind their vision. Thus they have to sit down in a dark control room. They need to detect every signal they pass along the way. They have to work hours a day.
Some of them have to wake up at 2am or 2:30am to be ready for the first train will at 4:30am so that they can get it to the track at 5am. After finished the first round, the driver must come to relax immediately before coming to other shifts (3-hour working intervals) to fill up 8 hour working hours.
There are 90 drivers (controllers) with 10 driving trainers. All the drivers must pass through 4 1/2 month testing. There are 600 station controllers which need to pass through 3 1/2 months and then they will be allocated following slots:
There are 50 officers at the Control Center.
Each station will have 5-10 officers.
The rush hour interval of trains will be 3 minutes, 45 seconds.
Even when the system is ready, they need to pass independent engineering inspections to ensure safety.

Diplomats, executives and press ride the subway--Lots of development planned around the stations - translated and summarized from Manager Daily, April 13, 2004 and Thairath, April 13, 2004
Minister Suriya and his family, the Ambassador of Japan and family, the Ambassador of Germany and family, the Ambassador of Austria and family, members of MRTA Board and their families, members of the BMCL Board of Directors, TV, radio, and newspaper journalists - both local and abroad, as well as invited guests who receive free tickers have made the first ride of the subway from Thai Cultural Center Station to Hua Lamphong.
MRTA Governor Praphat told the press that he feels very satisfied with the first test run even though he found that some of the rolling stock have defective air-conditioning systems and the doors cannot be closed which prevents the subway from departing the station. However, he asks those technicians from Siemens and MRTA to repair the defective parts to be ready for free ride tomorrow.
Furthermore, the MRTA and BMCL security guards have been trained for the security, evacuation, rescue, basic first aid, basic fire extinguishing, hand to hand combat, combat with weapons, and the way to search for weapons.
Metro Mall is going to open the first 5 branches at Sukhumvit, Chatuchak, Kamphangphet, Phaholyothin, and Thai Cultural Center stations and 6 more branches will follow. The area over the station at Chatuchak and Kamphaengphet are going to have commercial development with additional development at Queen Sirikit (near Phai Singto neighborhood), Lad Phrao and Ratchadaphisek.
The existing malls along the subway route will have major facelifts.
Brew Pavilion is jumping into the retailing business by developing the Pavilion Bangkok shopping mall for new generation and entertainment complex with existing German beerhouse. Union Mall at Phaholyothin neat Ladphrao Intersection will have a supermarket, banks, major shops, food center, and entertainment center (Cinema, Bowling, Karaoke) with a park and ride for 3000 cars. Central Patthana is going to come up with Rama 9 Square opposite Fortune Town.
Even Dusit Thani Hotel is going to turn some part of their hotel into an office building, shopping center and plaza and now the real estate firms have come up with condominiums within 500 m radius of stations.

How to be a subway driver - translated and summarized from Manager Daily, April 12, 2004
Even though subway cars can run with automatic controls, the drivers are still necessary. However, it is very tough to be qualified for the Subway Driver since all of the eligible candidates must be good at math, English, general knowledge, and good service. The committee for testing the candidates come from the physicians as well as specialists.
Those who pass the knowledge testing must have strong physical and mental health. This has already disqualified many candidates--only a few survive to have an interview with the committee to examine internal thought. Only those who have good characteristics, are reasonable, and have good concentration can pass.
Even those who pass the examination will have to go through the orientation to know the culture of organization, policy, and goals--along with physical testing held by BMCL and Siemens (Thailand) at Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy to build discipline.
After the orientation, they have to learn subway procedures and training in a simulation. They have to be able to do more than push buttons to open the screen door and start the train--they have to deal the first aid and other emergencies such as floods, arson, blackouts, bag snatchers, and even espionage.
Qualified people must be calm in dangerous situations so that they can solve the problems without causing another problem. If they flunk the test, they have to make another test to pass the exam.
Even those who held a master degree in Business Administration and worked as an instructor at the university must work hard to become a subway driver. He has to drive the subway to get it cleaned at the depot and calculate speed to be able to decelerate at the right time.
It would be a very good thing to have a nationwide mental examination of drivers of buses, trucks, trains, and even motorcycles at the same level as subway drivers. We feel very sure that many of them need to see psychiatrists or even some of them need to have some mental relaxation at asylums or in meditation schools.
If the subway system has been expanded it would solve the traffic problems--a very worthy investment even though massive investment is required. Look at BTSC Skytrain as a good example.
After a 5 month examination, 90 male and female qualified subway drivers will go through the driving the actual trains without passengers.
They work 8 hours a day - with 2 intervals, 4 hours for each interval. They will have to line up for inspection from the head of the subway driver division every day. Those who suffer insomnia or get sick will get the day off to get some rest. They will take pride as those who run the subway system in Thailand.

Disappointment and praise for the subway - translated and summarized from Manager Daily (1, 2), April 13, 2004
Many who wanted to have a free ride but do not have tickets feel very disappointed since they thought that Premier Thaksin told them that they can have a free ride without mentioning they need to have a ticket.
Therefore, Minister Suriya is asking BMCL that they should allow another free ride for anyone--not just those who live along the tracks--in May 2004 so as to educate the new passengers of the subway system. The full service must also be ready in June or July 2004.
Mr. Pliew said BMCL have given 60,000 free tickets to passengers and kept the other 240,000 tickets for May free rides by giving them out at department stores along subway lines. However they may revise the plan after the assessment of the April free ride. However, after checking the letters to BMCL, they found that there are 42,000 letters -> thus there will be 84,000 free riders in April alone. They may even print more tickets for the May free ride to accommodate millions of Bangkokians who want a free ride.
Bangkokians have made the following praises of Subway system:
Satanan Junegrungriengkij (7 years old) - a child of Minister Suriya said he is very excited and very fast so no need to bother with traffic jam. He wants to take another ride if he has a chance.
Kittphongse Tatiyarattna (39 years old) - officer at private firm said he is very satisfied with the system and it is very comfortable, but he needs to study the route since he lives in Donmuang and works in Sukhumvit. So he will use the park and ride and then ride the subway to go to his office around Asok. The subway is safe thus he can go to work downtown without problem.
Mr Thanaphong (24 year years old) - a college student said it is fast and safe - even safer than Skytrain which looks like airplane. Subway is safer in his viewpoint.
Boontham Pornpradit (73 years old) said she likes subway. It is very fast and very safe. She will use it since she travels around Bangkok to see her children and grandchildren along the route. She will definitely ride it instead of private cars and a senior discount applies to her.
Monruedee Ketuuphan (47 years old)- deputy Director of PR Dept, AOT PCL said she feels very satisfied with the test run. She also asked that the security is tightened up when it is fully functional so that she can ride the system during the holiday.

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