A Detailed Review of Bangkok’s Mass Transit Railway System
Bangkok is served by three types of the electric mass transit railway system. Around 1.4 million people use BTS Skytrain, MRT and Airport Rail Link daily. The government plans to have above 5 million commuters using the trains each day after new extensions are completed. This type of public transportation is vital to the social and economic environment of a mega-city like Bangkok.
The BTS Skytrain, inaugurated in early December of 1999, not only was the first electric mass transit railway system to commence operations in Thailand, as it also revamped the way of living in Bangkok.
This new public transportation became an easy solution to many road users who could now avoid the chronic traffic congestions in the city. It also proved to have more environmental benefits since it offers decreased airborne pollution compared to cars.
Moreover, due to new route extensions launched throughout the years, it also attracted public and private investment to underdeveloped locations outskirts of the Bangkok’s Central Business District and beyond.
In the beginning, the BTS had a total of 23 stations – 17 on the Sukhumvit Line, or Light Green Line (Mo Chit – On Nut), and six stations on the Silom Line, or Dark Green Line (National Stadium – Saphan Taksin). The interchange station was – and still is – at Siam.
Up to now, the Sukhumvit Line has received four route extensions. On the eastern side, from On Nut to Bearing, then to Samrong, and finally to Kheha – Samut Prakan station. On the northern side, between Mo Chit and Ha Yaek Lat Phrao stations, the trial run has started last August 9.
The Silom Line has the same number of extensions. All took place on the western side, from Saphan Taksin to Wong Wian Yai on Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River, then to Pho Nimit, and Talat Phlu, before Bang Wa station commenced operations on December 2013.
Both dark and light green lines have now a total combined length above 50 kilometers, connecting 45 stations. Further BTS expanding services are already in the pipeline. The construction of the Light Green Line between Mo Chit and Khu Khot stations is expected to be completed in 2021. Further route section will end at the East Outer Ring Road station.
After new extensions are operative, it will allow commuters reaching faster Bangkok’s midtown or its suburban areas, including within Greater Bangkok – Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, and Samut Sakhon provinces. Commuters can also have easier access to interchange stations with other mass transit railway systems operating in the city or in nearby provinces.
The Bangkok MRT is the subway system, with a few elevated sections, consisting of the Chaloem Ratchamongkhon Line, or Dark Blue Line, inaugurated in early July 2004, and the Chalong Ratchadham Line, or Purple Line, which commenced operations in August 2016.
Running between Hua Lamphong and Bang Sue stations, the Dark Blue Line, passing beneath the heart of Bangkok towards locations such as Rama 9, Thailand Cultural Center, Ratchadaphisek, Ladphrao, Chatuchak Park and Kamphaeng Phet, received a one-station service extension from Bang Sue to Tao Poon in 2011. An interchange station was also created at Tao Poon after Purple Line’s new route running northward to Khlong Bang Phai station, in Nonthaburi province, was available to commuters.
From July 29 until September 28, 2019, free test rides to the public are available on the extended route between Wat Mangkon – in the heart of Chinatown – and Tha Phra stations, both located westward Hua Lamphong. This new route includes the Sanam Chai station, near the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.
The official launch date of the completed extension from Hua Lamphong to Lak Song via Tha Phra is set for September 29. It is expected the full extension of the Dark Blue Line to commence operations by April 2020. The 48-km-long route will form a quasi-circle line circumscribing the Central Business District, also tourism and cultural spots. The further rail section from Lak Song to Phuthhamonthon Sai 4 is already approved.
The Purple Line will also have a 23.6-kilometer southward extension from Tao Poon to Rat Burana and is expected to open in 2025. Additional route section with Phra Pradaeng and Khu Nai stations is planned.
Within the next five years, additional extensions under construction will be completed. They are the Yellow Line (Ladphrao – Samrong), Light Red Line (Taling Chan – Bang Sue), Dark Red Line (Bang Sue – Rangsit) and Orange Line (Thailand Cultural Center – Minburi).
The latter line is expected to be completed in 2014, while the first three lines are set to be operational in 2021. New node at interchange stations will be created in Thailand Cultural Center, Ladphrao and Bang Sue.
Connecting to Suvarnabhumi
With commercial services launched in August 2010, the Airport Rail Link is operating the City Line, with a total of eight stations from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Phaya Thai, where is connected to BTS by a terminal. Also, the Express Line started with the route between the airport and Makkasan, which is the 6th station from Suvarnabhumi, nearby MRT’s Phetchaburi station, where commuters could easily reach to Rama 9, Central Business District, and the northern part of the city. On June 2011, additional Express Line route became available between Phaya Thai and the airport.
The City Line is used by residents and students living in the eastern suburbs, as well as tourists and airport staff. The Express Line services, which mainly served tourists, were suspended in September 2014 due to a shortage of rolling stocks. In October 2016, it was turned public the four Express Line trains would be upgraded and converted into City Line trains to serve an increasing demand of passengers.
In the pipeline are the extension of the Taling Chan – Salaya section, the Rangsit – Thammasat extension and the Taling Chan – Siriraj stretch, among others.
Furthermore, the high-speed train connecting Dong Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao airports will come to light as part of the government’s strategic plan for the Eastern Economic Corridor.
New Residential Areas
With an increasing number of residents and tourists in Bangkok, there was no way out for keeping the pace of progress than having a more connected city. The implementation of the electric mass transit railway system not only provided faster travels to passengers but could accommodate a greater number of people by journey than other public transportations.
New route extensions opened a window to property developers to expand their works from the prime locations of Bangkok to its suburban areas, of which many are now under great transformation. The electric mass transit railway system is the key factor for development since attracts real estate investment and other types of businesses. All combined is favorable to the rise of new residential areas outside the city’s midtown, and even within the Greater Bangkok.
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