BTS ridership to exceed pre-Covid level

BTS ridership to exceed pre-Covid level

Passengers focus on their smartphone screens while travelling on a BTS skytrain in Bangkok. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
Passengers focus on their smartphone screens while travelling on a BTS skytrain in Bangkok. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

The reopening of schools, a rebound in foreign tourist arrivals and the full operation of extension sections should increase skytrain ridership to exceed pre-pandemic levels, according to BTS Group Holdings Plc.

Surayut Thavikulwat, chief financial officer, said the company saw an increase in ridership over two weeks ago after schools reopened on May 17 as more people opted to use mass transit lines to avoid heavy traffic jams.

"Ridership last week was over 70% of pre-pandemic levels," he said. "The trend will continue in the second half as Covid-19 will be recognised as an endemic disease in July and people will be able to live a normal life again."

Other positive factors include an increase in foreign tourists after the country's reopening last month as well as the full operation of BTS's extension sections which will also help boost ridership this year.

He said the new Bangkok governor's policy on fares would not have an impact on the company because his policy focuses on the extension sections which were now free of charge rather than the main section under the BTS concession which would end in 2029.

"We just asked the Bangkok Metro- politan Administration to pay us a debt of 40 billion baht from operation, maintenance and electrical and mechanical installations as soon as possible," he said.

In fiscal 2021, ending in March 2022, BTS recorded an operating revenue of 31.1 billion baht with a net profit of 3.8 billion baht, down by 26% and 16%, respectively.

However, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation increased to 31.4% from 25.2% in the previous year.

For the mass transit business, operating revenue fell 34% to 20.8 billion baht with a gross profit of 4.83 billion baht, down 9%, mostly from a drop in income from the delayed construction of the Pink and Yellow lines during a closure of construction sites as well as from the provision of electrical and mechanical works.

BTS is constructing the Pink and Yellow lines, which as of May 2022 were 87% and 92% complete, respectively. These lines are expected to be fully operational by 2023.

It will also start construction of U-tapao airport in the second half of this year and expects to have it fully operational by 2025.

Early this year, it began construction of intercity motorways which will be fully operational by 2025.

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