Thai Life


Skytrain Struggle

Expanded, Intrusive & Congested

For the past three years or even more I've been noticing (along with a few others) that the BTS is severely RAMMED to near-capacity, especially during rush-hour.

I can recall the misty, halcyon days of it being an almost private travel experience nearly twelve years ago. Quiet moments, seats for all and space to breathe and think. Ice cool blasts of air almost seemed to teleport you into another time and place.

Not so in 2012.
Now it's a bustling, noisy, over-crowded place yet covering more of Bangkok than ever before..

The Tahksin Era

While the roots of the Skytrain stretch back to the early 1990s, it was in 2000 when the BTS Skytrain was launched. For about four years things went mostly smoothly. There was early criticism about the lack of stations, the smalll number of carriages and even the pricing itself.
Yet the Skytrain rolled onwards, establishing itself as a source of pride for the Bangkokian's. In those times there was no MRT Subway in Bangkok (although it was nearly at completion).

Changes and Expansion

Some of the highly questionable 'improvements' to the BTS came in 2008-9 with flatscreen TVs appearing in the Skytrain and in some platform areas. Pop TV and a constant stream of advertising now flooded into the BTS, the positioning at head height meaning few could miss the parade of imagery.

Savvy expats learned to strategically sit apart from them (although there were four in every carriage on BOTH sides), or block them out with audio / ear plugs. An alternative was to choose the MRT Subway, but a few years later (2011) that also cashed into the TV advertising gig.

Skytrain Expansion

While all this was going on, the BTS steadily expanded to encompass Suvarnabhuri Airport to the East and also some more area's of Sukhumvit also to the east and then southwards.

Skytrain Where Art Thou?

Since 2010 there has been a growing popularity of the Skytrain, however the surge in passenger numbers has pushed the capacity of the transport system to bulge at the seams. Most days of the week seating is few and far between, especially on the 'trunk' line of Victory Monument through Siam Square and on to Bearing.
In rush hour it's standing room only with actually getting on and off the train a squeeze and a slide through the masses of standing people.

Thai people are typically very conservative, especially in the big city's like Bangkok. I can tell they don't really like this. I've ridden on the ageing, creaking London subway and it's getting to be as congested as that is.

Solutions to the problem are varied. The basic one is expansion to the number of carriages. Currently about four or five are used per locomotive. At least one, maybe two could be added, providing some much needed breathing space.
This would require some work expansion to the stations themselves, as typically the platforms are *just* too short for anymore than one extra carriage to be added.

There is another 'solution' however.

Yet somehow, I can't see the Thai people liking that plan one iota!

This section is hosted by our resident columnist Johnny B. who has been living in Thailand for eight years now and currently is based out of Bangkok.

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