Orange Line plans hit giant bump

Construction News

A banner opposing construction of the Orange Line mass-transit rail project through the community hangs over Soi Prachasongkhro 21 in the Mae Niew Yak 3 community in this June file photo. Residents on Wednesday reaffirmed their opposition to the project. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

The Transport Ministry is planning to review the western section of the Mass Rapid Transit Authority’s (MRTA) Orange Line — from the Thailand Cultural Centre to Taling Chan — after residents refused to relocate.

News of the review comes a day after the cabinet approved the construction of the 21.2km rail section running east from the Thailand Cultural Centre to Min Buri.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith met officials Wednesday to discuss how to proceed with the Orange Line project, as it crosses through the residentially-crowded Soi Prachasongkhro 21.

Locals in June this year vowed to petition the Administrative Court for an injunction against the project if the cabinet approved it.

Mr Arkhom told the MRTA, the project operator, to study alternative designs that would avoid appropriating land from communities, MRTA governor Peerayudh Singpatanakul said after the meeting.

Mr Peerayudh said there are alternatives to choose from, but all of them will inflate the construction costs, originally set at 110 billion baht for the whole route.

The options include bypassing Soi Prachasongkhro 21 or building an underground tunnel, he said.

Prateep Nilwan, leader of the Mae Niew Yak 3 community, said earlier that if the route goes 30 metres below ground level, residents will not need to relocate from their 80-year-old neighbourhood.

However, the MRTA reportedly planned the tunnel to be 20 metres deep, according to the residents.

The agency will explore the options available within the next two months, Mr Peerayudh said.

The Orange Line’s current route was backed by a committee on land traffic management, which insisted residents had known about the route for more than a decade. The design it picked would also have a minimal impact on traffic.

However, residents in Soi Prachasongkhro 21 complained the plan would lead to the eviction of at least 1,000 families.

The Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning is also looking at alternative electric train routes in Taling Chan area, Mr Peerayudh said.