Thailand's railways are a quaint trip back into the past but changing them for modern commerce will take a thorough restructuring.
Thailand's foremost economic think tank the Thai Development Research Institute (TDRI) has been studying how the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) should be best restructured to serve the needs of the public better. Today's article surveys their findings. The full version of the article can be found here.
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RAILWAYS: Getting on track needs strong political will by Amornrat Mahitthirook and Saritdet Marukatat
[Photo above: The State Railway of Thailand labour union during a protest earlier this year. Restructuring plans have been going at a snail’s pace, partly due to opposition by the powerful union. SURAPOL PROMSAKA NA SAKOLNAKORN]
After lip service from several governments, the debt-ridden state-owned enterprise will get a boost from the Abhisit administration which has promised financial backing for development. The cabinet on Nov 22 approved the Transport Ministry-sponsored request for a 43 billion baht budget to improve railway lines and directed the Finance Ministry to look for loans for the SRT. The money is part of the 176 billion baht plan under the Thai Khem Khaeng scheme previously endorsed by the government on April 27 to overhaul the much needed railway system in five years.
On top of the list of improvements approved last month is to mend old tracks, repair bridges, build more barriers on road crossings, buy new locomotives and construct dual track. The priority is obviously on improvements to train safety and reduction of accidents...
...The SRT has suffered losses every year since it was turned into a state-owned enterprise under the Transport Ministry in 1951, and its debt has risen significantly. Its losses in 2007 were almost eight billion baht, growing to 10.2 billion baht in 2008 and 11.7 billion baht last year. Now it is sitting on a mountain of debt of around 76 billion baht.
"[Correcting] the losses of the State Railway of Thailand is long overdue. Although the government will allocate 176 billion baht to the agency, it will not stop the SRT from bleeding financially. The SRT needs reform in terms of management and personnel," said Narong Pomlaktong, the research director of the TDRI's team.
The SRT believes the answer to that problem could be on structural change. Now all jobs including train servicing, personnel management and asset management are recorded in one book. Under the restructuring plan, it will be split into three business units on services, maintenance and asset management respectively. It will have another subsidiary, SRT Electrified Train Co Ltd (SRTET), specifically responsible for the Airport Rail Link service between Bangkok and Suvarnabhumi airport and other mass transit services under the SRT in the future...
(Source: Bangkok Post, RAILWAYS, Getting on track needs strong political will, 22/12/2010, Amornrat Mahitthirook and Saritdet Marukatat, link)
railway - the transport of passengers and goods by using wheeled vehicles running on rail tracks (See Wikipedia)
State Railway of Thailand (SRT) - the state-owned rail operator of Thailand, การรถไฟแห่งประเทศไทย (See Wikipedia)
think tank - an organization that does research and publishes results in areas such as economics, social policy, political strategy, science, technology, industrial policy, business strategy (See Wikipedia)
Thai Development Research Institute (TDRI) - Thailand's first public policy think tank with economics research a specialty (See website)
track - a mark or line of marks showing the direction that something has moved and is moving ร่องรอย
getting on track - getting a project moving in the right direction, so that it can achieve its goals
strong political will - wanting strongly to (determined to) take the actions needed to achieve political goals
labour union - an organization of workers that works to improve their pay and conditions of work
protest - a strong complaint or disagreement ประท้วง
pace - the speed and rhythm at which something happens ท่างทำนอง ย่างก้าว จังหวะ ที่สิ่งต่างๆ ดำเนินไป (See glossary)
going at a snail’s pace - going very very slowly (as slow as a snail)
opposition - strong disagreement with a plan or policy ความขัดแย้ง
lip service - saying that you like or support something (but not doing anything yet)
paying lip service to Y - saying you like Y but not actually doing anything about it yet (talk without action)
debt - an amount of money that you owe หนี้
ridden - has a lot of something bad (guilt ridden about the kids, flea ridden blanket, debt-ridden company, for example)
enterprise - an organization, especially a business กิจการ, บริษัท,อุตสาหกิจ,วิสาหกิจ
boost - to strengthen ทำให้มีกำลังมากขึ้น
administration - one government that a country has for a period of time
backing - support สนับสนุน
financial backing - when someone is paying the money needed to support a project or business
development - the gradual growth and formation of something
budget - an amount of money able to be spent on something งบประมาณ
improve - to make better ทำให้ดีขึ้น
scheme - a plan that is developed by a government or large organisation in order to provide a particular service for people แผนการ โครงการ
endorsed - officially approved รับรอง
overhaul - to improve something so that every part of it works properly ปรับปรุงใหม่
mend - repair, fix a broken thing
repair - to fix something that is broken or damaged ซ่อมบำรุง
barriers on road crossings - long metal or wooden objects that come down when a train is approaching (to prevent people from trying to drive across the dangerous tracks)
locomotive - a railway vehicle with an engine that pulls the other cars of the train in back of it from place to place (See Wikipedia)
track - a railway track, the "metal rails" or "rail line" that a train travels along
double track railway, double-track lines, double rails - a railway system with tracks running in both directions (this means that trains don't have to wait to use tracks and can go faster) (SeeWikipedia) รถไฟรางคู่
dual track - same as "double track railway"
priority - something important that must be done first or needs more attention than anything else การให้ลำดับความสำคัญ
significantly - in an important way อย่างสำคัญ
long overdue - very late (should have happened long long ago)
allocate - to officially give out an amount of or share of something แบ่งส่วน
reform - a change that is intended to correct a situation that is wrong or unfair การแก้ไข การปฏิรูป
personnel - people who work for a company or organisation
structure (noun) - the arrangement of parts into a whole โครงสร้าง
structural (adjective) - about the structure of something
structural change - changing the structure (here: changing the organization of the company so it can better achieve its goals)
asset - something owned by a person, company etc., particularly money and property ทรัพย์สิน
split - to divide ทำให้แตกแยก
business units - separate parts of a company that do different businesses (management, business objectives, budgeting and financial reporting are all separate)
services - บริการต่างๆ things produced in service industries, not a physical good that can be bought, a waitress and a cook in a restaurant provide a service, technically: a sequence of activities that does not result in ownership of the outcome (See Wikipedia on services and the goods and services continuum)
maintenance - work that is done to keep something such as a building, machine, or piece of equipment repaired and in good condition การซ่อมบำรุง
asset management - a company that holds assets such as real estate, stocks, or bonds for other people or another company
subsidiary - a company that is owned by a larger company บริษัทลูก บริษัทในเครือ
specifically - in an exact and detailed way
Airport Rail Link - Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link (SARL), a rapid transit line, provided as an airport rail link from Suvarnabhumi Airport to a City Air Terminal at Makkasan and urban area of Bangkok, Thailand. Most of the line is on viaduct over the main Eastern Railway. It is owned and operated by the State Railway of Thailand (SRT)
รถไฟฟ้าเชื่อมท่าอากาศยานสุวรรณภูมิ, แอร์พอร์ตลิงก์ (See Wikipedia)
mass - large numbers จำนวนมหาศาล
transit - the act of moving from one place to another การเดินทางผ่าน
mass transit - public transportation within cities or between cities such as subway, bus, elevated train, train, light rail, etc.
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