Skytrain chaos blamed on new radio

Skytrain chaos blamed on new radio

BTSC vows no major delays after Friday

Long waits and packed trains were the rule on the BTS Skytrain on Monday, and it might not be any better all week until Friday. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)
Long waits and packed trains were the rule on the BTS Skytrain on Monday, and it might not be any better all week until Friday. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

The BTS Skytrain's recent signalling malfunctions, which left thousands of passengers stranded at stations for hours Monday, will "definitely" be resolved by Friday, officials said.

Bangkok Mass Transit System Plc (BTSC) CEO Surapong Laoha-unya said Monday that a new radio communication system is now being installed on both the main Sukhumvit and Silom lines.

He said after an evening meeting at the Transport Ministry that the malfunctions -- which forced trains to slow down and led to mass passenger congestion -- had occurred far more frequently than expected.

"The work has been going on for around a year but now that we're reaching the final stages some issues may arise," Mr Surapong said. "From Friday we don't expect to see any problems of this degree."

"The malfunctions occurred more frequently this month than since the start of the year. We apologise to all passengers," he added.

The Skytrain chief said the refit mainly involves increasing the frequency of the radio signal used in the railway's signalling system. He said a new frequency was needed in light of the BTS network's upcoming extensions.

Several complaints about passenger congestion and slow trains have been reported this month, mostly on social media. Two incidents occurred Monday alone -- one at 6.15am and the second at 3.40pm. It took four hours to resolve the earlier incident.

Passengers at regularly congested Mor Chit Station experienced an unusual degree of overcrowding. As a safety precaution, they were stopped at the bottom of the stations' staircases. Meanwhile, commuters at On Nut were seen waiting on the staircases.

Monday's malfunctions were made worse as they occurred during the morning rush hour. BTSC reports state the main Sukhumvit Line and Silom Line service see 800,000 passengers a day in total on average.

The BTSC's official Twitter account sent updates in the morning stating their trains would be around 10-15 minutes late.

BTS Group Holdings Plc executive director and chief adviser Anat Arbhabhirama said the malfunctions were first spotted at Siam Station, where the new signalling system was disrupted by interference. Drivers had to manually slow trains for safety reasons.

Mr Surapong said passengers who cannot tolerate the level of congestion after entering the station will be eligible for a ticket refund.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said more public buses must be deployed in these instances as an alternative, as part of a crisis management strategy previously agreed upon among transport authorities.

However, no designated buses were deployed.

Meanwhile, Mr Surapong said the BTSC will "gladly" join a new common ticketing system, but only after the system's Mangmoom (Spider) cards enter their second phase of usage.

Some 200,000 cards were released as part of the first phase. The second phase will involve switching over to new EMV credit cards by next year.

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