Plea for Hua Lamphong

Plea for Hua Lamphong

Railways union rejects closure plan

All quiet on the platform: People at Hua Lamphong Station, the main railway station in Bangkok. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)
All quiet on the platform: People at Hua Lamphong Station, the main railway station in Bangkok. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

The State Railway Workers' Union has rejected the plan to close all train services at Hua Lamphong Station.

Suwit Kaewwan, president of The State Railway Workers' Union (SRWU), lodged a petition letter with Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob. The letter says thousands of commuters would be affected if all train services to Hua Lamphong Station closed this November as planned. "The SRWU disagrees with the idea that all train routes to Hua Lamphong should end. We would rather see a few routes being kept in service to reduce the impact on commuters," he told the media.

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) plans to move all train services to Bang Sue Grand Station this November. Then, Hua Lamphong Station, open for 105 years, will end its role as the city's main rail transport hub.

The future of the city landmark remains unknown. The SRT, however, is reported to be keen on keeping it as a museum.

The closure raises questions about the effect on some commuters as services are re-routed to Bang Sue. Commuters living in the western suburbs have relied on riding cheap trains to Hua Lamphong Station, which is located in the central business area and close to tourism sites. Meanwhile, eastbound train routes used Hua Lamphong Station as a junction point.

On a broader front, Mr Suwit said the SRT would lose future business development opportunities if it closed Hua Lamphong. He said the station is more than just a large train station but also offers cultural and historical value, which the SRT could exploit. "SRT would squander opportunities for using Hua Lamphong to develop cultural tourism or arranging special train services if it closes," he said.

SRT governor Niruj Maneepun has admitted some train commuters would be affected but said the agency is drafting contingency plan to help reduce the impact. "It is similar to the closure of Don Muang Airport. Some people were affected. The next challenge is deciding what to do to reduce the impacts," said SRT governor.

Initially, up to 3,000 daily commuters travelling from Makkasan station to Hua Lamphong would be affected, and the SRT may provide special shuttle buses to ease life for commuters. SRT is also studying a plan to develop land around inner city train stations such as Samsen Station which also stands to close under the changes. He said Hua Lamphong would be used as a train depot and maintenance station temporarily. The SRT would permit trains to enter the area for maintenance overnight to reduce traffic and air pollution.

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