People in the western suburbs of Bangkok have for decades struggled to maintain links with the greater metropolis, with mass transit systems all but a dream. Until now.
City Hall recently unveiled a plan to develop the skytrain Green Line, an extension of the BTS Silom Line which will run from Bang Wa to Taling Chan.
“Living near public transit makes people happier. We think people living in the Thon Buri area need more public transport links that get them into the city centre,” said deputy governor Amorn Kitchawengkul, who is in charge of the mass transit system in the capital.
Bangkok commuters now make more than 17 million trips per day, mostly by personal vehicle which causes heavy traffic congestion in most areas, he said.
That has encouraged the extension of the skytrain routes such as the Blue Line (Tha Phra to Bang Khae) and the Light Red Line (Bang Sue to Taling Chan) which are expected to be completed in 2017. The extension of the Orange Line (Taling Chan to Din Daeng) should be operational in 2019. The Green Line extension (Bang Wa to Taling Chan) will connect these routes, completing the link-up of the western part of Bangkok.
“The links will serve people living in Thon Buri who want to travel around the capital,” Mr Amorn said.
To move the extension plan forward, the first public hearing was held on March 3 at a hotel in southern Bangkok. Chaired by Mr Amorn, the meeting was attended by officials assigned to work on the project’s development and more than 100 residents from the Thon Buri area.
Three possible extension routes were proposed at the meeting by Team Consulting Engineering and Management Co Ltd, a project consultant.
The existing Green Line ends at Bang Wa station on Phetkasem-Ratchaphruek Road. The first option put forward was to go north along Ratchaphruek Road, passing through Bang Waek-Charansanitwong Soi 13 that links Phran Nok to Phutthamonthon Sai 4, then through Boromratchonnanee Road, Kanchanaphisek Road and ends near walkways close to the State Railway of Thailand’s Light Red Line (between Bang Sue and Taling Chan).
This route of seven to eight kilometres comprises of six stations: Bang Waek, Krachom Thong, Bang Phrom, Intharawas, Boromratchonnanee and Taling Chan.
The next options would share the first option’s starting point. The route would instead turn left at Phran Nok-Phutthamonthon Sai 4 and go west before turning right on Phutthamonthon Sai 1. From there, it would go north along Boromratchonnanee Road, then Suan Phak Road, before ending near the Light Red Line.
This route of about 10km would comprise eight stations — Bang Waek, Krachom Thong, Bang Phrom, Phutthamonthon Sai 1, Phothisan, Boromratchonnanee, Taling Chan and Chim Phli.
The third option would share the route of the first option to Boromratchonnanee Road. But it would head west and go along to the Light Red Line’s Taling Chan station and return to Ratchaphruek Road.
This route, about 7-8km, comprises six stations — Bang Waek, Krachom Thong, Bang Phrom, Intharawas, Boromratchonnanee and Taling Chan.
According to consulting engineer Tharit Issayangyun, each route has its advantages and disadvantages.
The third option was likely to draw the highest number of commuters as it penetrates into more communities and also interchanges with several lines including the Light Red Line at Taling Chan station, helping commuters going in different directions, Mr Tharit said.
A major disadvantage for this route is land appropriation, as it would be opposed by residents whose houses or property stand to be affected by the project.
Another disadvantage is its more complicated design that would take longer to complete, he added.
Conversely, he said, the first option does not require land appropriation and interchanges with several transits. However, the downside is the time-consuming, complex design and the fact that the terminal would be 550 metres away from the Light Red Line’s Taling Chan station, making it an inconvenient connection.
Although the second option also does not require land appropriation, and the design is not complicated, the terminal would be 650 metres away from the Light Red Line’s Chim Phli station. The longer distance between connecting stations means inconvenience for commuters and higher construction costs for the investor, explained Mr Tharit.
Land appropriation would eventually be required if the route was to be extended in the future to connect with the future Purple Line, he added.
“It’s up to the people and the state to decide,” he said, adding land appropriation would affect a considerable number of residents.
Once a preferred route is selected, said Mr Amorn, a feasibility study and environment impact assessment (EIA) study would then be conducted.
The Traffic and Transportation Department has hired consultancies TLT Consultant Co, Panya Consultant Co and Daolerk Communication Co, which have already begun their studies into the three optional rail routes. A budget of 40 million baht was approved in December for the studies, Mr Amorn said.
If the project goes ahead as planned, he said, the feasibility and design studies should be completed next year while an EIA report could be forwarded to the planning committee by 2017.
Construction would cost about 10 billion baht and need two years to complete. If the construction work is carried out as planned, the project would be ready to launch in 2020. However, no investment pattern has been decided as yet, Mr Amorn said.
One possible investment option is for the BMA to persuade a private operator to develop a public-private partnership. Another option is for the BMA to acquire a loan and operate the route itself.
A team has been assigned to conduct a study on the return on investment of the two options, said Mr Amorn.
The extension would help the BMA to effectively tackle part of the city’s traffic congestion problems as a convenient transit network has great drawing power for commuters, he said.