Planned rail system linking Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang & U-Tapao airports offers convenience to air travelers, but bottleneck in construction must be worked out first.
Military government set to build rail link between 3 airports
Almost six years ago, the Airport Rail Link introduced a fast route to Suvarnabhumi airport, offering speedy trains taking travellers right into the Suvarnabhumi airport terminal.
This year the government is set to offer even more convenience to air travellers by starting work on a new rail system with an ambitious plan to link together the Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and U-Tapao airports.
Previous governments had similar ideas to upgrade the Airport Rail Link to a “super-link” that included Don Mueang airport in Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan and the navy-owned U-Tapao airport in Rayong, but the plan failed to make progress until the current administration.
The findings of a study on the new rail link are expected in March this year.
FIRST SECTION: PHAYA THAI-DON MUEANG
The cabinet will be asked next month to approve construction of the first section of the 31.1-billion baht Phaya Thai-Don Mueang rail route.
The line is divided into two sections — Phaya Thai-Bang Sue, and Bang Sue-Don Mueang airport.
A nod from the cabinet will kick-start construction of the 7.8km Phaya Thai-Bang Sue section, a mixture of a 4.3km elevated track and a 3.5km underground track.
This Phaya Thai-Bang Sue section must be constructed first because the government is also pushing ahead with the Light Red rail line project that connects Bang Sue and Hua Mak as well as Bang Sue and Hua Lamphong.
PHAYA THAI: GOOD JUNCTION FOR TOURISTS
Phaya Thai serves as the first station of the original Airport Rail Link, the 28.6km line that links Phaya Thai to Suvarnabhumi airport.
Phaya Thai station is considered a good junction point for travellers visiting Bangkok because once travellers get off the Airport Rail Link they can board the BTS skytrain that, in turn, connects inner Bangkok and Thon Buri, on the west side of the Chao Phraya River.
Travellers at Phaya Thai station will get one more route running to Don Mueang airport where most budget airlines are located once the new Airport Rail Link is built.
SUVARNABHUMI-U TAPAO & BANGKOK-PATTAYA HIGH SPEED RAIL
The Suvarnabhumi-U-Tapao section of the Airport Rail Link, with a construction cost estimated to be at least 100 billion baht, is not a priority at the moment, but will need to be built in the long term.
One alternative is to include the U-Tapao airport station in a planned high-speed rail project from Bangkok to Pattaya and Rayong.
U-Tapao airport is scheduled to open for commercial service in July this year to help relieve overcrowding at Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports.
There is, however, one problem that has to be solved to make the Airport Rail Link a reality, a limited construction area in the 14km Bang Sue-Don Mueang section of the rail line.
There are three railway projects with the Bang Sue station on their construction maps: 1. the Airport Rail Link, 2. a section of the Red Line connecting Bang Sue and Rangsit, and 3. the Thai-Chinese and Thai-Japanese railway development projects.
It is impossible to funnel all the new railways into the same area since the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) which oversees the Airport Rail Link has limited space for rail route construction from Bang Sue to Ban Phachi in Ayutthaya.
There are initially two solutions to the problem. First, the Airport Rail Link could cancel the Bang Sue-Don Mueang section and have people who want to go to Don Mueang airport take the Red Line at the Bang Sue station. The other proposal is to share a rail track with the Thai-Chinese dual track project, linking Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima. The SRT is considering them both, but the share track option is more likely.