Platform door testing crashes BTS train system

The testing of a new platform screen door caused an eight-hour failure of the BTS skytrain system that created havoc for Bangkok commuters on Tuesday morning.

A screen inside a BTS carriage shows a notice saying the train cannot move due to a system malfunction on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)

The test triggered a malfunction in the signals communication system which controls the trains, leading to a total shutdown.

Anat Arbhabhirama, adviser to the board of director of Bangkok Mass Transit System which operates the BTS skytrain, told a press conference Tuesday afternoon that the testing of platform screen doors at stations early morning had caused the signal problem.

The company is spending around 600 million baht installing platform doors to improve safety for passengers. Similar doors already operate on the MRT train system.

Anat Arbhabhirama (Photo by Boonnarong Bhudhipanya)

Mr Anat said tests on the Silom line were completed. The company began testing the screen door system on the Sukhumvit line when the problem arose about 3am.

The problem caused the cancellation of all services from 6am, when trains normally begin running.

Bombardier Transportation Signals (Thailand) Co, which handles the service, was called in to the fix the problem and full services resumed five hours late at 11am, he said.

However, there was another signals interruption between Chidlom and On Nut station at about 1pm, causing the service between these two stations to be halted for about half an hour.

Mr Anat said Bombardier will check the signal system again after its daily service ends at midnight. All problems were expected to be ironed out before normal operations start at 6am Wednesday.

He said the company had lost about eight million baht in revenue because of the failure.

BTS informed commuters of the suspension of services via Facebook and Twitter, but many peak-hour passengers arrived at stations to find them shuttered. Signs said commuters would have to find other means of travel, with staff giving similar advice.

The company said it was the first time in 14 years of operation that the system had failed. The  company would bring in software developers to help improve the system.

The underground MRT was reported to be packed during the morning rush hours as commuters desperately sought other means of getting to work. The MRT increased the frequency of services and sent empty trains to pick up passengers at Sutthisarn station. Traffic returned to normal as the rush hours ended.

Roads were also reported to be severely congested with many people having to spend an extra hour in their vehicles on the road to work.

Some commuters complained they were ripped off by motorcycle taxis, which seem to be the only available means of transportation as vacant taxis were extremely difficult to find.

A 23-year-old commuter complained of a motorcyle taxi demanding 200 baht to take him from On Nut station to Asok, saying the "normal" fare was never more than 100 baht. He finally found a taxi which took him to his ultimate destination in Klong Toey for 150 baht. 

Photos by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill

Related search: BTS skytrain, Thailand, Thai transportation

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