Difficulties for Suvarnabhumi International - Rail Link

Suvarnabhumi International Airport SRT City Line Train Not everyone is overjoyed by the new Suvarnabhumi International Airport's SRT rail link. At least one reported thinks the project is so flawed than many fliers will stick to taxis.

      courtesy Thai-ASEAN News Network

Oh, Poor Airport Link

BANGKOK: -- Finally, the Airport Rail Link is officially opened for commercial services on Monday (Aug 23), after seven years of construction. The high-speed trains, though, do not look as new as they should. In fact, they look as if they had been bought at a clearance sale. Even Chinese trains look far more dashing.

The 28-kilometer rail route costs more than 30 billion baht in investment and has been subject to a vast amount of criticisms and negative press. Much of the grilling has been directed towards the project contractor, Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction.

Despite its name, the Airport Rail Link isn't actually connected to any airport. According to the original plan, the route should have linked Don Muang Airport with Suvarnabhumi Airport, but ended up with the last stop only at Phaya Thai Station in Bangkok's downtown area.

What's worse, the station does not even connect with a BTS station which is just a short distance away.

The first day of commercial run was nothing but a mess. Commuters paid full fares, but could not check in their luggage because the Thai Airways counters were closed and no one knows when they will open.

Hundreds of current Airport Rail Link staff are not full-time employees of the State Railway of Thailand (SRT). The railway authority hired Sasin Institute of Chulalongkorn University to recruit people and oversee salary payments on its behalf.

It remains unknown which organization these employees are working for. Who will be held responsible when problems arise? How desperate it is to see how the SRT and Thai politicians wasted precious tax payers' money.

Anyone who has been to Makkasan Station must have been upset about its poor condition that does not reflect the enormous investment put in. I cannot explain exactly how it looks. You've got to see it with your own eyes. Compared with Hong Kong's Airport Rail Link, the difference are like heaven and hell.

The road system around the Makkasan Station has not been expanded to accommodate more future traffic. Those who regularly pass through the area, especially during rush hours and on rainy days, would know well how terrible the traffic can be.

Whoever is thinking about boarding the Airport Link train at the Makkasan Station to Suvarnabhumi Airport should give it a second thought, because they could miss their flights. If anything, using the motorway could be a better choice.

Moreover, travelers are not safe from hassles when they travel via the rail link to the international airport. They have to heave their luggage upstairs from the train station in order to check in at the airline counters on the forth floors.

The Ministry of Transport has anticipated an operating loss in the first three years. But I doubt whether the SRT could really break even after the 3-yr period. Or the Airport Rail Link is destined to be in the sea of red ink forever just like our clunky rail services.

'Mai Het Prathet Thai' column, Thairath newspaper, August 25th, 2010
Written by Lom Plian Thit
Translated and rewritten by Wacharapol Isaranont
Please note that the views expressed in our "Analysis" segment are translated from local newspaper articles and do not reflect the views of the Thai-ASEAN News Network.