War of words over Orange Line fares

War of words over Orange Line fares

MRTA boss rushes to stave off criticism

Construction work proceeds on the MRT Orange Line. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Construction work proceeds on the MRT Orange Line. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) on Monday pointed out that maximum fares on the Orange Line electric train were cheaper than those on the BTS Green Line.

MRTA governor Pakapong Sirikantaramas said the fare cap of of 62 baht had been used as a reference price only in its Public Private Partnership (PPP) official report for bidding purposes.

In reality, passengers would only pay from 15-45 baht to travel on the Orange Line, he said.

The MRTA governor was speaking to correct media reports comparing the cost of travel on the state-funded MRTA with the BTS Green Line, a private sector route, which had given the impression that the maximum fares were not that different.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) was attacked for raising the ceiling of the whole 68.25-km stretch of the BTS Green Line to 158 baht, a huge leap from 65 baht.

City Hall raised the maximum fare to repay 100 billion baht it owes BTS Group, the private sector that co-funded and operates the service.

At first, the BMA said the fare cap would be 65 baht but it revised the figure up after the government refused to grant another 30-year-concession to BTS Group.

In requesting to renew its concession for the Green Line, BTS Group had offered to freeze the fare cap at 65 baht and share the 200 billion baht in revenue with the state.

To placate angry consumers, BMA governor Aswin Kwanmuang swiftly announced a lower ceiling of 104 baht but the MRTA, which comes under the umbrella of ministry of transport, lambasted the BTS Green Line fare as still being too expensive.

The 35.9-km Orange Line will connect the eastern and western parts of Bangkok. The 22.5-km eastern section of the line will have 17 stations and the 13.4-km western section 11 stations.

The governor insisted that Orange Line fares would be considered carefully in order to minimise people's travel expenses as much as possible.

At the same time he wanted to promote the use of public transport, which could help with solving the problems of traffic congestion and PM 2.5 levels in and around Bangkok.

The governor is said to be insistent that the fares charged by other electric rail systems are not cheaper than those of the Green Line when all factors, including total distance, are considered.

"Let's compare numbers. The MRT Blue Line charges 1.62 baht per kilometre while the Green Line charges 1.23 baht for the same distance,'' he said.

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