Bangkok Subway News – July-October 2004

Bangsue - Bang Yai subway line approved - translated and summarized from Manager Daily, September 28, 2004
The cabinet has approved the Bangsue - Bang Yai line with a budget of 46.764 billion baht, 13 stations, 23 km. The bidding will start in two months and take another six months to come up with the detailed design and the contract to be signed in May 2005. Construction will be finished by September 2008.
MRTA has to find a loan from a domestic source at cheapest price while MOF will be an underwriter. MRTA will have to issue bonds and offer IPO on the SET while the board for the mass transit investment will discuss with MOF about the financial plan later.
Commentary: Even though many people feel very glad that the subway will be reaching the suburbs, some suspect corruption and collusion again.
Those who live along Sukhumvit road from Bang Na to Samut Prakarn as well as those who live in Thonburi feel angry that the government has still blocked any funding of Skytrain extensions. They feel that the government is punishing the people who did not vote for Thai Rak Thai. Same can be said to those who live along Lad Phrao road and Kaset area...
However, those who live in Nonthaburi area praise Premier Thaksin that he has very good long term vision. Even though they think TRT is corrupt, they still think that TRT is a lot better than Democrats. Discussion of this can be seen here.

MOTC pushing Bangyai subway extension for the cabinet meeting at NBIA
- translated and summarized from Thairath, September 27, 2004
MOTC is pushing the purple line extension from Bangsue to Bang Yai (23 km with 46.709 billion baht price tag). MRTA needs to make further study to make an environmental impact assessment and detailed design. The project will be a turnkey project.
The bill for Purple Line extension:
1) Consultant to handle the detail design and bidding forms - 0.350 billion baht
2) Land expropriation to construct Bang Yai depot - 1.587 billion baht
3) Payment to contractor - 27.556 billion baht
4) Rail system - 16.417 billion baht
There are 100 villages along this purple line within a 5 km radius and 60,000 households and 250,000 people. There are already 100,000 cars in the area.
If approved, the construction can be started by September 2005 and the opening will be by the end of 2008.
Furthermore, the first 25% of BMCL stock must be sold at par price. The rest will be mentioned later.
Note: Opinion about 25% share at par is here.

BMCL coming up with a strategy to boost passengers
- translated and summarized from Manager Daily, September 24, 2004
BMCL is going to issue the Student Smart card for students not older than 23 in the next semester. Even those adult passengers will receive some discount for using smart cards to boost the number of passengers by 10-15%. So far, BMCL has daily revenue of 3 million baht.
The children 90-120 cm tall and senior citizens qualify for a 50% discount.
Adult passengers who use smart cards will qualify for a discount only when they ride during the non rush hour periods of the day. However, the details on the discount scheme for adults has not been revealed yet.
This plan will boost the number of passenger by 10-15%. This also strongly encourage passengers to buy smart cards--up from 40% of passengers now to a target of 80% passengers.
The average weekday passengers is 140,000 trips a day during weekdays and 100,000 trip a day during weekends. The daily revenue is 3 million baht.
BMCL has submitted a commercial management plan to MRTA to get approval. If the plan is approved, the installation of telecommunication systems for mobile phones inside the subway could be started within one month while the commercial development could start in the next two months after approval and the new advertising run by Mr Phanthongthae Shinnawatra [the Prime Minister's son] will be started in 1 week.
The revenue sharing to MRTA is 7% of the revenue received form the private sector. However, it will take time for BMCL and MRTA to make a settlement on revenue sharing by clearing up all misunderstanding.
Note: Comments, Criticism and cynicism about this Subway discount scheme can be seen here.

MRTA rejects the commercial development plan for the subway
- translated and summarized from Manager Daily, September 24, 2004
MRTA rejects the commercial development plan of BMCL since BMCL will pay MRTA only 7% of 25% of the subsidiary revenue while BMCL grabs the rest. That a very unfair deal since BMCL has held 75% of stocks in subsidiary companies and they get 93% of the 25% subsidiary revenue. This deal has pleased the BMCL shareholders very much. MRTA deserved to get 7% of the net revenue while BMCL should get 18% of net revenue. The deadlock has postponed the plan to offer an IPO.
Mobile Phone substations and commercial stores are not very important since even subways in Japan prohibited passengers from using mobile phones inside subway bogies expect for sending messages.
Student discounts and 10% discounts during non rush hour for those who hold smart cards have been requested by MRTA, from the very first days of the contract, but BMCL has rejected this by claiming that the 15% discount for the first year would be sufficient--however it has been proven this is not so.
BMCL has to correct some direction signs at Chatuchak, Phaholyothin, and Silom since lots of passengers have made very loud complains about the lousy direction signs.
Notes: Comments and criticism about 10% discount plan is here.
Park and Ride at Bangsue and Morchit will save 75 million baht a year - translated and summarized from Manager Daily, June 30, 2004
MoEnergy agrees to grant 43 million baht to BMA and BTSC to construct two new park and rides at Bangsue and Mochit.
1) Mochit Park and Ride will be at the 23-rai old Mochit bus terminal and will hold 2000 cars with a 25 million baht budget.
2) Bangsue Park and Ride will be at the 10-rai Thoed Damri Road opposite Siam Cement. It will hold 1000 cars with an 18 million baht budget to cover a bridge across the railway tracks at Bangsue junction.
MRTA, BTSC and SRT will set up security units in both park and ride buildings. Both park and rides will have facilities to link with other modes of transportation. MRTA need to have more park and rides in addition to the existing 9 park and ride facilities and parking lots to pick more passengers.
Stunning success for the subway - 7 million baht in 5 days - translated and summarized from Ban Muang Daily, July 8, 2004
BMCL received 7 million baht of revenue to give to His Majesty in just 5 days of service--with the average number of daily passenger at 150,000. The delays during July 4-5 were due to facts that many of those monkeys (those who cannot keep there hands in the right place) are pulling the emergency gate switches - causing the subway doors to open and forcing BMCL to evacuate the passengers for inspection and reinstall the gate system.
BMCL has installed temporary signs to solve unclear gate sign problems along with having BMCL workers make announcements.
The problems with the subway service on July 8-9 will be solved. Further education for those who are not familiar with the Subway will be applied to ensure that they can use the subway without glitches. More passengers will compel BMCL to run 18 subway sets--up from the current 14 sets during the normal period and 18 sets during the morning and evening rush hours. Only when daily passengers have peaked to be at par with Skytrain (400,000 passengers a day) will BMCL be compelled to purchase five more set of rolling stock.


BMTA has revenue squeezed - translated and summarized from the Public Relations Department info posted on MThai, July 8, 2004
BMTA buses have their revenue reduced by 300,000 baht a day due to the Subway. However, they hope that after the first year rates have been applied, some of their customers will be back.
Nikorn Jamnong (deputy minister of MOTC) said they may consider transferring BMTA to BMA since the non-aircon buses are reaching the decommissioning period. The government would subsidize the fare so that passengers can pay only 5 baht while BMA pays 5 baht and the government pays another 5 baht in addition to the current subsides to BMTA.
Stunning success for the Subway - 250,000 passengers in a single day - translated and summarized from Prachachart Thurakij, July 7, 2004
Subway is a very stunning success.
First day (July 3, 7pm to midnight) - about 50,000 passengers
Second day (July 4 - Sunday) - 250,000 passengers a day due to it being a holiday and many want to try the Subway--for some may be once in a lifetime.
Even during the workdays, passengers fill up the subway since it is dirt cheap (10 baht--cheaper than Euro 2) with very fast services. This subway has already changed the lifestyle of Bangkoians--especially those who work along Rachadaphisek and Rama 4 since they can go to have good dining and shopping at Hua Lamphong during noon break. Some use the subway to interchange with the Skytrain before heading to offices at Silom, Wireless Road, Siam.
The subway is not hurting the Skytrain very much since the Skytrain has already have regular customers and the route is not competing, but complementing. However, the real test will come when the first year rates are applied.
The atmosphere inside Subway stations is not perfect. It is very dry since it looks barren--no decoration, no charming ads, no resting areas for sipping coffee or drinking water. TVMs are not fully installed yet.
The rush to open the system has forced BMCL to forgo the installation of convenient directing signs and many passengers have ranted and yelled at BMCL officers while asking about the directions due to the frustration when they have to up and down many levels before finding the right gates. However, some of those passengers are very lazy since they do not bother to read the signs at all.
The smart cards/token system is a big plus that makes the BTSC cards look primitive by comparison even though there are some glitches since many have never experienced such kind of convenience before.
BMCL has installed aircon and ventilators to cut pressure inside the subway, but it will cost BMCL very much--40 million baht a month for aircon alone. Air must be cool enough, but the thermostats have been set to 29 Celsius so as to force the passengers to rush. Many have complained due to the jam-packed subway--thus they need to set the thermostat to 25-27 Celsius as the way to make it more comfortable.
Central Pattana to dig 500-meter tunnel to the subway - SRT cooperating with MRTA to modernize Bangsue Junction - translated and summarized from Prachachart Thurakij, July 7-10, 2004
SRT is going to cooperate with MRTA in a joint venture to invest 10 million baht to modernize Bangsue Junction (5 million baht from SRT and another 5 million baht from MRTA) along with a viaduct and a new gate at 2-rai of land around Central Plaza Lad Phrao to connect with Subway. The 2-rai of land in front of Central Lad Phrao will be a new shopping mall.
Bangsue modernization will not be aircon--just better looking shops and a modernized railway stations to allow subway passengers to sit and relax before going into the underground station or before riding SRT commuters/intercity trains. This also allows rural folks to head into Bangkok without having to go to Hua Lamphong.
However, Central Pattana told SRT that they are going to invest 500 million baht for the underground tunnel to link with Phaholyothin and are just asking approval form SRT and the investment will become a reality.
So far SRT has received 500 million baht revenue from leasing SRT land--short of the 1 billion baht target. However the advertising billboards from Rangsit to Lad Krabang will help SRT to reach the 1 billion baht target--even though the current billboard advertising with 3-year lease has generate 40 million baht additional revenue.
SRT is checking whether the 45 booths around Central Lad Phrao are within the leased land or vacant land. Central Patthana can lease that land with booths for commercial development, but they have to pay higher rent to SRT.
Central Patthana has asked SRT to dig a 500 m tunnel connecting Central Lad Phrao with Phaholyothin Station. After approval, Central Patthana has to pay investment bills of 500 million baht while paying the additional lease to SRT at market rates.

BMTA shocked! Subway sucking away almost all passengers from Ratchadaphisek Road busses
- translated and summarized from Thaipost, July 7, 2004
The cheap ticket price of the Subway has already sucked away the BMTA bus passengers. Nevertheless, BMTA will wait to see the results when the actual ticket rates are applied. Even so, BMTA buses still have regular customers to ride the bus no matter how many passengers the Subway sucks away.
Motorcycle taxi drivers also feel stunned that passengers have already shortened routes to go only to Subway stations. Now, metered taxis have to park near Subway stations to pick up passengers who want to go to the suburbs. The drivers are wishing that the subway will be extended to Rangsit or Bang Kapi.
At Klong Toei Intersection, there were only two passengers in BMTA bus No 136 (New Mochit - Customs Dept) and BMTA Aircon Bus 185 has only a driver and ticket conductor since both routes go along a Subway line. The conductor of BMTA bus 136 told correspondents that the number of passengers is decreased but there are a few regular customers who still ride the bus since they do not have to pay for both Subway and Bus if they still ride the bus. The actual impact will come out after August 12 and the BMTA workers believe that they will get their customers back unless BMCL decides to issue 30-day pass to keep their regular subway customers happy with bargain prices.
The BMTA officers said even after the introduction of 30-day passes for the Skytrain, there were still a lot of regular passengers who ride BMTA No 77 (Rama 3 - New Mochit). The have-not Bangkokians still have to ride the buses. Many of subway riders have complained that it is very hard to to breath inside the subway due to the sardine-packed subway. Some even faint inside subway stations. The have to count the number of stations before reaching the destination. Inside the bus, they still have some room to breath.
Even though Subway has added more travel choices, it will not help cut the traffic since many people still travel in the same old way by driving private cars. The police inside Subway stations also cause a lots of troubles to the passengers.
The motorcycle taxi drivers at Klong Toei told the press that the passengers used to hire them to take them to Huay Kwang or Ratchadaphisek. Now, those passengers have asked them to drop down at the nearest Subway stations or just simply ride the subway without asking for a motorcycle ride.
Taxi drivers said they waited by the Subway for a very long time. Those taxi cabs simply pick up the passengers at the nearest subway station instead of seeking out passengers. Taxi driver said when they parked their cars at Skytrain station for just about 3 minutes, they will get the new passengers... a big boon for them indeed when the Subway became a reality. Therefore, the major expansion to Bang Kapi and Rangsit will help them a lot since there will be several stations to choose and driving in suburb areas have much less stress and strain from traffic jams.

Crimes inside subway stations - Hoarding subway tokens - Sexual harassment
- translated and summarized from Thairath, July 7, 2004
BMCL activity managers said there are 250,000 passengers on July 4. Many of those passengers have hoarded Subway tokens to resell at higher prices (buy 10 baht and sell 15 baht) even though they are not supposed to do so since it has only a 1-day lifetime. Those who hoarded the tokens have to return those tokens to BMCL to get payback. Many of them [including me] have purchased tokens for keepsakes.
Some passengers have passed out or had seizures which forced BMCL officers to take them to hospitals. There are also slipping while scrambling for tickets. Some young women have undergone sexual harassment by being grabbed at their behind while waiting on the long line at Bangsue. BMCL officers arrested that molester and took him to Noppahwongse Police Station (the HQ of Railway Police near Hua Lamphong).
Now passengers can use mobile phones at the ticket level while those who stay at the platforms and those who inside the subway will not be able to use mobile phones. They will be able to use the mobile phones inside subway next month. More CCTV systems (30 CCTV per station) will be installed to ensure security. Every passenger will be under the surveillance of CCTV systems which connect to the station, the HQ and the maintenance center and are recorded onto magnetic stripes. MRTA and BMCL have been trained along with police from 11 stations (5 sub HQ) along subway route stop all those bad folk inside the subway.

Passengers still storming the subway - Hoarding subway tokens - New passenger numbers
- translated and summarized from Khaosod, Thairath, & Dailynews, July 6, 2004
Even on the first working day (July 5, 2004) the subway is open, Bangkokians are still storming the stations--especially Asok and Sukhumvit.
However, there are several problems with using tokens since it is very new concept for subway passengers--BMCL and MRTA officers have to educate the masses about how to use the new tokens.
Even worse, many have hoarded Subway tokens to resell at 15 baht/token. Furthermore those who ride subways just hang around the station to socialize with other people despite the 1-hour limitation. When MRTA imposes a fine, the passengers who hang around the station will have their stored value cut down while those joy riders with tokens will have to pay a fine according to the length of time they stay.
MRTA Governor admits that this low price attracted many passengers to the subway stations and caused long lines at the booths since the TVMs imported from France have not been fully installed yet. The TVM installation will be done next month. So far, few people bought smart cards due to the high price (300 baht) despite they are much more convenient to use than tokens.
The confusing signs at the gates (usually 4 gates) also frustrated the passengers when they are going out of the stations.
After recounting the passengers, the final number are:
July 3 (8pm - midnight) - 65,000 passengers
July 4 (6am - midnight) - 250,000 passengers
July 5 - not finalized yet. - the first estimation is 150,000 passengers
The stations which have the highest number of passengers:
1) Hua Lamphong (Highest), 2) Bangsue, 3) Queen Sirikit Center, 4) Silom, 5) Sukhumvit
Many passengers exit at Silom, Ratchadaphisek, Suthisarn, Phra Ram 9 and Phetburi.
On the other hand, the number of passengers for the BTSC Skytrain on July 4 is 230,000 passengers. While the number of passenger who exit the Skytrain station at Asok is increasing, the number of passengers who go to Saladaeng station is declining due to a much more convenient interchange with the subway at Asok station.


Connections to the Subway and Skytrain - July 7, 2004
Notes: The owners of four buildings are asking MRTA to construct connections with Subway stations:
1) Fortune Town - Phra Ram 9
2) Chula Hightech - Sam Yan
3) Bangkok Terminal - Chatuchak Park
4) Office and condominiums along Asok-Sukhumvit road - Sukhumvit station
MRTA has some conditions attached before approving the via duct construction:
1) The owner of the buildings must have the blueprint of the tunnel to connect to the subway station and it needs to fit into the same format as the subway tunnel.
2) Security within the tunnel must be ready all the time.
3) The owners of those buildings have to take the whole responsibility for the power bill, the water bill, security hiring, and the construction cost of the connecting tunnels and they have to allow MRTA engineers to inspect the tunnels without hesitation.
BTSC has received requests from four buildings for BTSC to come up viaducts connecting the Skytrain with their buildings:
1) Thaniya Plaza - Saladaeng station
2) Major Ekkamai - Ekkamai station
3) Nusasiri Project (Nuza 101 building) - Ekkamai station
4) Central World - Rajadamri Station
The constructions of via duct to the Skytrain station is a piece of cake, but the owners of those buildings have to take a responsibility for construction costs, maintenance, power and water bills, and miscellaneous expenses.


Storming the Subway
- translated and summarized from Manager Daily, July 5, 2004
Even on the third day, the subway undergoing a human storm due to the 10 baht ticket. The human circulation and education to the masses about how to use Subway have been improved.
MRTA now agrees to correct the confusing signs by enlarging the letters, posting more sign at the wall near the gates with much larger letters and asking BMTA to supply more buses to go to the subway stations.
Even though Ratchadaphisek traffic has improved, the traffic along Vibhavadeerangsit and Phaholyothin are still seeing traffic jams. Even the main park and ride at Lad Phrao and Thailand Cultural Center are full--the capacity needs to be doubled.
After the first year rates have been applied, the number of passenger will be reduced by 30% to 140,000 passengers a day which then requires a monthly pass to boost the number of passengers.
Subway passengers are asking for the shuttle bus. Therefore, MRTA can ask BMTA to supply the buses only in some important stations even though it will not please every passenger.

The Thai-language forums and the subway, July 7, 2004
First thread - This one asks for better bus connections with Samyan station to allow passengers to transfer to the bus and reach Si Phraya via Phyathai-Si Phraya road without trouble since the existing bus stops for the bus to Si Phraya are too far away from the station.
Bigger route map as well as the bigger signs indicating the significant places near the gates are also being demanded. The bigger sign showing the ticket prices are requested along with the time to reach the destinations. Some also ask for a 20-baht flat rate ticket which will not come about until MRTA has come up with 30-day passes. Furthermore, they ask for the extensions to Thonburi, Bangkhen and Rangsit.
Second thread - This one asks for cooler air conditioning inside both stations and subway cars after getting crushed in like sardines with other passengers in both stations and inside subway cars. Furthermore, MRTA and BMCL should add more perfume in the air conditioning to suppress the stinking and humid atmosphere along with moldy smell inside the subway stations. Better ventilation and dryers inside subway stations have to be installed to solve such problems.
Furthermore, the passengers are asking MRTA to follow Tokyo subways which have speakers to announce which side of turnstiles to go in and which side of the turnstiles to come out. However those who live in Boston warn that the speakers could confuse even those regular passengers.
Many feel very disgusted at the security measure suggested by the FBI to close the restrooms for security reasons. Tokyo and Seoul Subways have restrooms open. Bigger station logos and station names are also on demand.
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