Delay to line opening hits tourist visits

Delay to line opening hits tourist visits

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) has extended the closure of the Ban Laem-Mae Klong rail route for another four months after maintenance work fell behind schedule.

SRT deputy governor Thanongsak Pongprasert, in charge of business operations, said the track overhaul is expected to be completed at the end of March next year.

The maintenance work, which began in May this year, was originally scheduled for completion at the end of last month.

He said shuttle buses will be provided for train commuters between Phetchaburi's Ban Laem and Samut Songkhram's Mae Klong during the extended closure period.

People will be picked up and dropped off at every station along the route.

Mr Thanongsak said the maintenance work will improve train safety but admitted the extended closure would hit the local tourist attraction.

Intira Wutthisomboon, director of Samut Songkhram's tourism office, said businesses at Talat Rom Hoop in Mae Klong district are likely to take a hit from reduced visitor numbers.

The market is the highlight of the province and draws large crowds of Thai and foreign tourists.

It is next to Mae Klong railway station where vendors who sell their products along the railroad tracks quickly fold away their umbrellas as trains approach.

This gives the market its name, Talad Rom Hoop, meaning "closing umbrella market".

During the past six months, several groups of Chinese tourists have cancelled their bookings, she said.

Local vendors have also raised concerns about sluggish trade after the SRT extended its maintenance work and are concerned about the months ahead when visitor numbers normally pick up.

According to the vendors, business has been slow in the past six months and tourism over the key New Year festival period is likely to suffer.

The market usually draws large crowds of visitors on long weekends and festivals.

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