Union slams plan to shut old station
The State Railway Workers' Union of Thailand is mounting fierce resistance against the Transport Ministry's plan to shut down Hua Lamphong station, which has served as Bangkok's main rail hub for 105 years.
The station will be decommissioned on Dec 23, after which all passenger rail services to and from Bangkok will operate out of Bang Sue Grand Station.
With the new station acting as the city's new terminus, the government hopes to relieve congestion in the inner city, where trains passing through level crossings often cause gridlocks, especially during rush hour.
After a public hearing on the matter, SRUT adviser Sawit Kaewwan said on Tuesday that most union members disagree with the ministry's plan and demanded Hua Lamphong be kept operational.
At least 22 trains per day must depart the station for it to maintain its function, Mr Sawit said, before calling the ministry's plan to shut down Hua Lamphong "unnecessary".
"Hua Lamphong is a place of historical significance, having served the city for such a long time. For this reason alone, the ministry must review [its closure] and think hard whether the move would benefit corporations or the people," said Mr Sawit.
Furthermore, the land on which Hua Lamphong station sits was decreed to serve only as a railway transport site. Developing it into a commercial area is illegal under Section 6 of the State Railway of Thailand Act, he added.
Mr Sawit also dismissed the Transport Ministry's claim that Hua Lamphong's commercial development will give the State Railway of Thailand the financial boost it desperately needs, calling the agency's 600-billion-baht debt "exaggerated".
Mr Sawit said the SRT's debt stands at around 190 billion baht.
"[SRT] has had to provide cargo and passenger services at below-market rates, and the government has not shored up the lost revenue," he said.
"It was forced to procure loans to stay afloat. Interest repayments alone costs a whopping three billion baht a year," Mr Sawit said.
He called on the ministry to make use of other plots owned by the SRT which are located in Phahon Yothin, Bang Sue and Chatuchak.
Separately, former senator Rosana Tositrakul also slammed the station's development, fearing the station could end up becoming an entrance to a planned mall next to it.