Outrage at Green Line fare

Outrage at Green Line fare

Round trips up to 1/3 of minimum wage

A Green Line train is passing Lat Phrao intersection, Bangkok. (Photo: Arnun Chonmahatrakool)
A Green Line train is passing Lat Phrao intersection, Bangkok. (Photo: Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

City Hall plans to charge a fare of up to 59 baht for the BTS Skytrain Green Line electric rail service, drawing criticism from a consumer protection group which says the fare should not exceed 44 baht.

Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt said on Tuesday the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) has recommended City Hall collect a fare of up to 59 baht for the entire route including the Green Line's extension.

That covers routes from Bearing to Kheha stations and from Mo Chit to Khu Khot. There is currently a free ride programme along the two routes.

"Initially, the new rate will be in line with the TDRI's suggestion. To be fair, it is time passengers who enjoy the free rides pay up because we have to pay for the operating costs," Mr Chadchart said.

He said up to 27% of passengers get free rides on the extended routes and City Hall has to use other taxpayers' money to cover the costs.

"The 59-baht fare is a short-term solution. City Hall has had to pay several billion baht while operating the line. For a long-term solution, the concession extension must also be taken into account because that will expire in 2029," he said.

He insisted the proposed 59-baht fare has nothing to do with his campaign pledge that fares would range from 25-30 baht. "The rate of 25-30 baht is not for the entire route. This is an average rate for a ride along eight stations," he said.

"BMA executives have agreed that the 59-baht fare is suitable because the extended routes are quite long," Mr Chadchart said.

He has vowed to sort out the long-running dispute over the Green Line electric rail system concessions, which includes higher fares for riders and mounting debts.

The Green Line is owned by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA). The Interior Ministry has been pushing for an extension of the Green Line operator concession for Bangkok Mass Transit System Plc (BTSC), the current operator of the skytrain, for another 30 years. The contract would run from 2029 to 2059.

In exchange, BTSC would have to shoulder the cost of extending the line, estimated at around 38 billion baht. This comprises 20 billion baht for electrical and mechanical installations and 18 billion baht for operations and maintenance costs.

Mr Chadchart opposes the concession extension because he wants the BMA to control the operation and have the ability to lower fares, capping them at 25-30 baht so that lower-income people can afford to travel.

Extending the contract would mean the BMA would have to wait another 30 years before it could control the line, he wrote on his campaign website.

Deputy Bangkok governor Wissanu Sapsompol said the TDRI had suggested the BMA collect a fare of up to 59 baht to ease the debt owed to the BTSC while operating the line.

The fare on the extended routes will be 15 baht but when combined with the rate for the original route, it would total 59 baht, he said.

Saree Ongsomwang, secretary-general of the Thailand Consumers Council (TCC), said the fare for the whole route should be capped at 44 baht, similar to the rates charged for other electric rail systems.

She said while she supports the new governor's stance against the Green Line concession extension, the new rate would see commuters pay up to 118 baht for daily round trips.

That would account for 36% of the minimum daily wage (331 baht) for workers in Bangkok, she said, adding "the TCC has high expectations of the new Bangkok governor".


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