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Will train prices lead to a Bangkok Renaissance?

Will train prices lead to a Bangkok Renaissance

The 20 baht tariff cap for Bangkok city trains has been pledged by the ruling party Pheu Thai.

The fare cap will go into effect in the coming months, just in time for the government to give the general public the much reduced maximum fare as a “New Year’s gift” if Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit has his way.

I believe that the 41-kilometer Red Line [Taling Chan-Rangsit] and the 23-kilometer Purple Line [Khlong Bang Phai-Bang Sue] should soon be able to have a fare cap of 20 baht because they are operated directly by the government, he said.
Regarding additional city lines, Suriya vowed to soon begin talks with concessionaires in an effort to completely enact the much awaited program.

the Greater Bangkok city lines

Greater Bangkok now has 12 city lines, totaling 242.34 kilometers in length. Along with the capital, they also cover adjacent provinces like Samut Prakan and Pathum Thani.

These lines are crucial to commuters since without them it could be hard to make it to the office on time in Bangkok’s notorious traffic jams.

As a result, despite having relatively high prices, the metro lines get more than one million visitors daily. The BTS Green Line of the Skytrain, which is run and owned as part of a concession by BTS Group Holdings, is the most well-known route across central Bangkok.

How expensive are tickets now?

The current maximum fare in Greater Bangkok is 45 baht for each line. If commuters need to use multiple lines to get where they’re going, they might have to pay more.

Simply put, in response to loud concerns from commuters and consumer groups, the government is now attempting to reduce the maximum fare by more than 50%.

Bangkok residents already pay around 11% of the minimum daily salary for an average city rail ride. Therefore, when factoring in their return trip, commuters on minimum wage have transportation expenses totaling 22% of their income.

Other Asian cities’ commuters are in a far better position, in comparison.

A metro ride in Singapore costs roughly 3.5% of the daily minimum salary. This percentage drops to 2.9% in Japan and to just 1.5% in South Korea.

How will the government lower the cost of travel?

The government strategy, according to the Rail Transport Department, is workable if there is money set aside to assist the operators of city lines who will be impacted by the drastically reduced maximum fare.

The annual subsidy fund, if the proposal is implemented for all city passengers, will be roughly 5.44 billion baht. The payment, however, will only amount to 307 million baht per year if the measure solely applies to holders of welfare cards.

advantages of cheaper fares

The benefits of the cheaper fare, according to Rail Transport Department Director-General Pichet Kunadhamraks, are considerable. There are fewer traffic jams, shorter commutes, lower travel and healthcare costs for the general population, fewer accidents on the road, and lower exhaust emissions among them.

“Life quality will improve. To mention a few, urban efficiency will skyrocket, he said.
The number of passengers will only increase by a modest 0.56% if the 20-baht maximum fare only applies to welfare card holders (who are all low-income earners). However, ridership is anticipated to increase by as much as 9.69% if it includes everyone.

According to Saree Aongsomwang, secretary general of the Thailand Consumers Council (TCC), a greater use of city trains will result in fewer vehicles on Bangkok’s highways and less air pollution.

She claimed that the budget allocated for this policy was really worthwhile. She predicted that it will reduce the harmful PM2.5 pollution that city officials have been trying in vain to control for years.
Saree said, citing Assoc Prof Dr Chalie Charoenlarpnopparut’s estimate of 25 baht for the cost of the typical BTS Green Line journey, that the government might not have to pay city line operators much. According to reports, his estimate was based on information that BTS provided to the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

“The price will probably be lower if we successfully push for a single ticket [covering all lines,” she said.

The proposal of lowering the tariff for city lines is one that former deputy governor of Bangkok and deputy leader of the Democrat Party Samart Ratchapolsitte supports. But he advises providing a range of options so that customers can select the option that best suits them.

He explained that some customers would choose a 50 baht one-day ticket that allows for unlimited travel on a specific day.

view of a research specialist

Technically, according to Sumet Ongkitikul, research director for transportation and logistics at the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), the government might set a restriction on the maximum fare per line at 20 baht.

However, he believes that the budget required to execute the fare cap may exceed what the Rail Transport Department has predicted.
According to my calculations, it amounts to around 8 billion baht annually, he stated. Accordingly, the government will need to find between 30 and 40 billion baht over the course of the following four years for the implementation.

Sustainable remedy?

Sumet believes that existing city rail tickets are excessively high and that passengers are being pushed to pay more than they should, but he also thinks the 20 baht maximum fare per ride may only be a temporary solution.

“The concept itself is not flawed. However, in the long run, I believe we will need to approach the fare issue differently, the study specialist said.

Sumet thinks that appropriate authorities and operators should find a means to set fair charges rather than using state subsidies to lower the fares.

According to a TDRI study, no matter how many lines a passenger takes, the total fee for a trip of up to 25 kilometers should not exceed 45 baht.

“Commuters rarely travel farther than 25 kilometers in one journey from the outskirts to the city core. The main cause of fare structure issues, according to Sumet, is that people frequently need to use multiple lines to get to their homes or places of employment.


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