Red Line set for October 2020 launch

Red Line set for October 2020 launch

'Last chance' to change SRT's indebted image

Officials inspect an overhead sign at the Thung Song Hong Red Line electric train station. (PHoto by Patipat Janthong)
Officials inspect an overhead sign at the Thung Song Hong Red Line electric train station. (PHoto by Patipat Janthong)

The first section of the Red Line electric train route from Bang Sue to Rangsit is expected to be functional by October 2020 after facing several delays, State Railway of Thailand (SRT) acting governor Worawut Mala said on Friday.

Construction of the 10-station, 26.3km route commuter rail network is expected to be complete by June 2020. The stretch is being referred to as the Dark Red Line by authorities to distinguish it from other projects within the Red Line's network.

Once construction is complete, testing will take at least three months. The line, now valued at around 82 billion baht, has been under construction since 2013.

Mr Worawut said the project's previous delays have been a result of political turmoil and funding disputes, adding the plan is currently about three months behind schedule.

Citing the SRT's hundred-billion-baht plus debt, he added the Red Line will be the authority's "last chance" to reform its debt-ridden image.

"The initial idea was for the Airport Rail Link to act as a turning point for the SRT, but it has been unsuccessful due to its lack of trains to service passengers," he said.

"This is why we have pleaded with the government to let us oversee the Red Line. There is no way a train shortage will happen with this network."

Mr Worawut said the SRT will bring in 130 commuter rail carriages from Japanese conglomerate Hitachi for the entire Dark Red Line. They will be split into trains of six and four carriages each, he added.

Initial fares for the Bang Sue-Rangsit route will range from 14-45 baht, he said, adding the fares will be modelled after those of existing Bangkok electric train lines.

Other planned electric train lines in the SRT's Red Line master plan include extensions to Thammasat University in Pathum Thani and Mahachai sub-district in Samut Sakhon's Muang district, with the exact location of the latter's terminus still undecided. These extensions will stretch around 87km.

Construction of a 15km stretch of the initial Light Red Line from Taling Chan to Bang Sue has been complete since 2012. However, it cannot be opened for service until the main Bangsue-Rangsit route is functional. The complete Light Red Line route stretches from Bang Sue to Salaya sub-district, in Nakhon Pathom's Buddhamonthon district.

Mr Worawut said a subsidiary company will be established to oversee all of the Red Line's operations, adding a chief executive officer could be chosen by August. Several of the company's staff will be sourced from existing Airport Link personnel, he said.

The SRT Electrified Train Co Ltd, the subsidiary currently operating the network, will eventually be decommissioned to make way for another company to manage the high-speed railway planned to link three of Thailand's main airports.

The Red Line project is an effort by the government to bolster development in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) as the railway will link Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi (in Samut Prakan) and U-tapao (in Rayong) airports together.

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