Rail Transport Department goes into bat to fight BTS fare rise

Rail Transport Department goes into bat to fight BTS fare rise

Commuters of the BTS Green Line board the skytrain at Khu Khot BTS station. From Feb 16, commuters have to pay more under the new ticket fee price ceiling recently approved by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. Apichit Jinakul
Commuters of the BTS Green Line board the skytrain at Khu Khot BTS station. From Feb 16, commuters have to pay more under the new ticket fee price ceiling recently approved by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. Apichit Jinakul

The Rail Transport Department on Sunday insisted the BTS skytrain maximum fare ceiling on the Green Line being capped at 158 baht would burden consumers, and planned to discuss the matter with City Hall this week.

Deputy director-general Kittiphan Panchan said the department would send a letter to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) calling for a suspension to the maximum fare ceiling.

Mr Kittiphan said the cap went against a cabinet resolution on Nov 26, 2020, and the fare would put an unfair burden on skytrain passengers, he said.

The department and BMA would meet this week to discuss the maximum fare ceiling on the Green Line route.

Mr Kittiphan urged the Interior Ministry and the BMA to send details regarding the maximum fare ceiling to the Transport Ministry to quickly resolve the issue.

Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said on Saturday the BMA should halt its policy on the new BTS maximum fare and wait for other authorities to find proper solutions.

The increased maximum fare of 158 baht was first set to be imposed on Feb 16. Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang, however, offered a brief discount to 104 baht to ease the burden on city commuters during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Despite the apparent concession, politicians have joined netizens in expressing anger over the rise. Chairman of a House committee on transport, Sophon Sarum, a former transport minister, said fare pricing on the Green Line must be transparent, saying he believed the maximum fare ceiling could be much lower.

Mr Sophon, an MP under the Bhumjaithai Party, dismissed the BMA's claim that it had no financial ability to repay the Green Line's loans and manage debts, saying the train line, which passes through downtown Bangkok, had clear potential to generate business opportunities.

The chairman suggested the BMA mobilise funds from financial sources such as banks and other financial institutions to manage the Green Line's finances. The committee would meet various parties concerned on Jan 21 to oppose the "unfair" maximum fare ceiling. It also would call on the government to put a brake on the new fare, he said.

Pheu Thai Party MP from Maha Sarakham Yutthapong Charassathien said the opposition would submit a censure debate motion to censure individual ministers on Jan 25. One of the topics that the opposition would debate was the Green Line.

Other topics include the government's mishandling of Covid-19 and the economy, gambling dens and corruption.

Ministers to be targeted include Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda and Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, according to the Pheu Thai MP.

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