City may axe Green Line free rides

City may axe Green Line free rides

Chadchart looks to solve Skytrain issues

A passenger stands ready to board a Green Line extension of the BTS skytrain. (Bangkok Post photo)
A passenger stands ready to board a Green Line extension of the BTS skytrain. (Bangkok Post photo)

Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt is planning to collect fares along two Sukhumvit Line extensions to solve debt and concession issues surrounding the Green Line.

Mr Chadchart on Thursday held a meeting with Krungthep Thanakom, City Hall's business unit, and his advisory team on the Green Line, which is operated by Bangkok Mass Transit System Plc (BTSC).

Afterward, Mr Chadchart said the details of the Skytrain system must thoroughly be reviewed as the matter involves many agencies. For instance, there is a concession issue related to the Traffic and Transportation Department and the Bangkok Metropolitan Council, the overseers of budgets, he said.

However, the Green Line extension's concession will not be renewed under the Public-Private Partnership Act, and the outstanding debt owed to a private operator worth about 40 billion baht must be reviewed, Mr Chadchart said.

Regarding debt, Krungthep Thanakom reported that some revenues from the railway line extensions from the On Nut-Bearing and Taksin-Bang Wa sections have been disbursed to a private firm.

However, the city may have incurred debt from a free ride programme along the Mo Chit-Khu Khot and Bearing-Samut Prakan routes, it said.

To ease the debt issue, fare collection along these two routes may have to start soon, Mr Chadchart said.

The programme has helped public transport operators, such as motorcycle taxis, by boosting passenger intake near stations, he said.

"Currently, many commuters in Bangkok must bear the debt of others riding for free along the sections," Mr Chadchart said. "So the debt issue cannot be used to expedite the concession renewal process because the private firm also benefits from the free rides."

He noted that many commuters transfer to other rail routes, thus providing revenue for the operator.

Details of the contract are confidential. Agencies can only reveal some details. However, Krungthep Thanakom insists every task is being done in accordance with the law.

The meeting with Mr Chadchart reportedly covered the private train operator and details of long-term employment and debt.

Krungthep Thanakom is expected to continue to study the details within one month before consulting with the Interior Ministry and submitting a plan to the cabinet.

The ministry, which oversees the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), has proposed to extend the BTSC concession for another 30 years after it expires in 2029 in exchange for the operator writing off BMA debt.

The proposal remains stalled in the cabinet due to opposition from the Transport Ministry over the matter.

A source said Minister Saksayam Chidchob has instructed related agencies to coordinate with Mr Chadchart to discuss a way out over the BTSC's concession issue and the BMA's debt.

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