Light railway to edge expressway plan

The Transport Ministry is considering scrapping a project to build an expressway passing Kasetsart University in Bang Khen district, with a light rail system being planned instead.

Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen, who is contesting the Bangkok governor election under the banner of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, said he proposed building a light rail system in the area to Transport Minister Chadchat Sittipunt.

Mr Chadchat said he agreed with Pol Gen Pongsapat's proposal and told the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTTPP) to study the details of how to make the switch from the expressway plans to light rail.

Originally, the third-stage expressway project was intended to start from Srirat Expressway, run along Rattanathibet Road, and pass Khae Rai intersection, Ngam Wong Wan Road and Kasetsart University. Mr Chadchat said the design of the expressway, conceived more than 20 years ago, is no longer suitable.

He said it will now be difficult to go ahead with the expressway project as construction must cut through parts of Kasetsart University as well as several communities that have emerged since the proposal was first made.

Switching from an expressway system to a mass transit project such as the light rail system should benefit the public more, Mr Chadchat said.

He said the light rail system would also connect to three electric rail lines _ the Purple Line at Khae Rai intersection, the Red Line at Kasetsart University intersection on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road and the Green Line at Kasetsart University intersection on Phahon Yothin Road.

He said the expressway project comes under the responsibility of the Expressway Authority of Thailand. But if the project is replaced with a light rail system, the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) will oversee its construction.

Problems should not arise from the change because both agencies are under the Transport Ministry, he said.

Chula Sukmanop, director of the OTTPP, said the light-rail project is not urgent and the office will need some time to study the proposal before presenting details to Mr Chadchat.

A budget would then be sought to commission a feasibility study and project design, Mr Chula said.

Mr Chula said the office has laid out a design for construction of the Yellow Line covering 30.4km from Lat Phrao to Samrong in Samut Prakan province. The Yellow Line is designed as a monorail and will cost about 57 billion baht to build. It will take about eight months to prepare bidding documents and cabinet approval will then be sought.

Bidding will open in March next year. Construction will take about three years, he said. The budget for construction will be drawn from the 2-trillion-baht infrastructure investment programme proposed by the government.

Soithip Trisuddhi, deputy permanent-secretary for transport and the State Railway of Thailand's chairman, said the MRTA has now provided the OTTPP with the details of the Pink Line (Khae Rai-Min Buri) and the Dark Green Line (Mor Chit-Saphan Mai-Khu Khot in Pathum Thani).

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Writer: Amornrat Mahitthirook
Position: Reporter