Grocery outlets at subway stations, and reduced fares for commuters are envisaged after the Transport Ministry agreed to amend a law to allow business development at the sites.
The Council of State had previously opposed the idea but the agency which runs the subway wants it to reconsider, saying development would lead to economic benefits.
Observers say the government’s legal arm may change its stance if the idea is backed by an amendment to the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand Act, known as the MRTA Act, enforced since 2000.
“We’ve sent the Council of State a bill seeking to amend the act,” MRTA governor Peerayudh Singpatanakul said, adding if there is no objection, the cabinet will be asked to give the final say.
The legal change will authorise the MRTA, which operates the city subways, to develop parts of its subway compounds for commercial purposes.
MRTA board chairman Gen Yodyuth Boonyatikarn said more revenue will help ease the burden of financing future railway construction projects, which would benefit commuters.
It would also enable the MRTA to reduce fares and allow more people to use the service, he said.
The Council of State earlier opposed this kind of commercial development citing a land law which bars officials from using expropriated land for leasing or selling purposes.
Mr Peerayut said the MRTA has suggested limiting land use only for “businesses that will benefit or help subway passengers” and then asked the Transport Ministry to approve the amendment to the MRTA act.
Food and drink shops and stores selling grocery items could be set up there, Mr Peerayut said. Advertisement billboard displays would also be welcome.
For other types of commercial activity, the MRTA would need to wait for an interpretation from the Council of State to determine which types of businesses would be suitable, the governor said.
He played down concerns over large-scale development at the sites.
The MRTA has “no policy” to lease areas to real estate developers wanting to build hotels and shopping malls, he said.
Parts of subway compounds which the MRTA is eyeing for business development are those near train maintenance centres, offices, subway entrances and exits and walkways inside stations, Mr Peerayut said.
Initially the MRTA wants such development at its four key routes.
In addition to the existing eastern Blue Line (Hua Lamphong-Bang Sue), development is also expected at the western Blue Line (Hua Lamphong-Bang Khae and Tao Pun-Tha Phra), Purple Line (Nonthaburi’s Bang Yai district-Bang Sue) and Green Line (Baring-Samut Prakan).
The routes comprise underground and elevated tracks. The latter are usually located off central Bangkok.