Bangkok: Using Bangkok’s extended mass rapid transit system could be too costly for low-income earners unless there are support services in place, including a wider bus network, experts caution.
“Citizens living far from the city centre might shun the BTS (Bangkok Mass Transit System) even when it’s expanded to the suburbs because the fares could be too high,” said Sumet Ongkittikul, research director for Transportation and Logistics Policy at the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI).
Four overhead railway lines are now in operation covering 120km, with seven more under construction covering 173km, according to Chayatan Phromsorn, deputy director general of the Transport Ministry’s Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning.
The State Railways of Thailand Red Line under development will connect Bang Sue to Rangsit (Dark Red, 26km) and to Taling Chan (Light Red, 15km).
The latter is now ready and the former is 79% complete.
Scheduled to open in 2020, the Red Line is expected to carry 300,000 passengers a day.
The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) underground Dark Blue Line connecting Hua Lamphong to Bang Khae and Bang Sue to Tha Phra is 95% complete.
Hua Lamphong-Bang Khae is expected to open this year, while Bang Sue-Tha Phra has a planned 2020 start.
The Dark Blue Line is projected to carry 490,000 travellers a day, according to Chayatan.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) recently said it aims to ensure a mass-transit ride costs no more than 65 baht (RM8.50) until at least 2029.
The pledge came in response to speculation that it could cost as much as 158 baht (RM20.65) per ride if the longer routes open without a defined price ceiling.
“Even if the price is capped at 65 baht per ride, it could still be too expensive for low-income earners, especially those who earn the minimum wage,” Sumet said in an interview with The Nation Weekend.
Even at 65 baht per ride, the 130 baht (RM17) round trip would be close to half the daily minimum wage in Bangkok, which currently stands at 325 baht (RM42.50).
“Even if the price was capped at 65 baht, the cost for many citizens living outside the city centre could still be well above that, since they might also have to take other means of transportation before and after they use the Skytrain or underground,” Sumet said.
These might include public buses or motorcycle taxis getting from home to the closest mass-transit station and again to reach one’s workplace.
Chayatan said the Transport Ministry hopes to add more “feeder” buses to move people from home to the mass-transit stations and from the stations to their workplaces or leisure destinations.
— The Nation / Asia News Network