The decision by Krungthep Thanakom’s new management to disclose parts of the memorandum of understanding and contract signed by the Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTSC) to operate train services along the extension of the capital city’s Green Line deserves praise.
Under further scrutiny, the documents showed a lack of consistency and consensus between the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), the Transport Ministry and the central government.
The ongoing dispute between BTSC and the BMA concerns the Green Line’s two extensions. The first, officially named “Phase 2”, stretches from On Nut to Bearing and Wongwian Yai to Bang Wa. The second, “Phase 3”, runs from Bearing to Kheha in Samut Prakan, and Mo Chit to Khu Khot in Pathum Thani.
Calculating fares for trips along the extension has always been difficult because the costs of constructing and operating services were borne by multiple companies. In Phase 2, for instance, the BMA took on the cost of building the physical infrastructure, while BTSC invested in the line’s signalling system and carriages. Meanwhile, the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) under the Transport Ministry shouldered the construction costs for Phase 3.
Phase 3 presented another set of problems, as parts of the line extend to Samut Prakan and Pathum Thani — meaning the BMA has no legal authority to charge and collect fares for journeys. As a result, BMA has not been able to make any money on trips between Mo Chit and Khu Khot and Bearing to Kheha, adding to its financial burden.
Fortunately, last week the BMA announced it will start collecting fares for trips along the extension starting in mid-September. Fares, it said, will be capped at 59 baht.
The announcement signalled the BMA and KT, under the chairmanship of respected legal expect Tonthong Chandransu, have managed to reach some sort of an agreement. It might also be a sign that KT might do away with its opaque work culture soon.
We hope that governor Chadchart Sittipunt won’t stop at sharing the data with the public and committees or engage in endless studies and negotiations. Bangkok commuters expect tangible outcomes, such as fare reductions, removal of flagfall charges, and the introduction of a common ticket that could be used across multiple modes of transportation.
Consumer groups which have slammed BTSC and KT in the past over their lack of transparency in the Green Line deals should now have no reason to complain, as long as talks on fares remain transparent.
The negotiations should involve all stakeholders, from the BMA, BTS as well as representatives of the public, in order to ensure fares are fair to all concerned. Only then would the talks be fair to the BTS — which is keen to recover its investment and make some profit in its remaining concession period — and City Hall — which owes about 100 billion baht as a result of the Green Line. Last but not least, it will also help ensure the fares are affordable and fair for commuters.
KT’s new management has made a first step in the right direction within a short period of taking office. That said, there are more still has to be done to clean up the city’s investment arm, which had been operating under a shroud of secrecy for so long.