It is hard to believe but the day will soon be upon us when Bangkok, yes Bangkok, has a mass transit system. Dr Karoon Chandrangsu is the director and chief operating officer of the Bangkok Mass Transit System Public Company Limited.

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Asked to describe the BTSC Dr Karoon says, "We are a complete package. We are in the process of building, operating and transferring an elevated mass transit railway system on two routes in central Bangkok. The construction is being carried out on a turnkey basis by a consortium comprised of Siemens A.G. and the Italian-Thai Development Public Company Limited. Siemens is in charge of supplying our electrical and mechanical services, including the rolling stock and signaling system.

"In April of 1992 we won a thirty-year concession from the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) to retain all revenues derived from operations of the system. This goes into effect once the line is fully operational which should be by theend of 1999. "Our projected ridership is 750,000 commuters a day. We will have thirty-five three-car trains in our first year of operation. These trains can also be extended to six cars. We are projecting a capacity of 1,106 people per each three-car train, and we will be able to service 50,000 passengers perhour in each direction.

"The system will operate from 6AM to 12 midnight every day. Trains will come every three minutes at peak times, and every six minutes at non-peak times. We will have twenty-four to twenty-five stations, and be comprised of two lines: the Sukhumvit Line starting from Soi 81 (Onnut) and ending up at the Mor Chit Bus Terminal. It passes along Sukhumvit Rd, Ploenchit Road, Rama I Rd., Phayathai Rd., Victory Monument, and Phaholyothin Rd. The Sukhumvit Line is approximately seventeen km long with seventeen stations including one common interchange station at Siam Square. Theline has a structural provision for construction of one additional station in the future.

"The Silom Line starts at the foot of the Sathorn Bridge on the Bangkok side and ends east of Banthad Thong Road near the National Stadium. From Sathorn Road it proceeds north to the junction with Klong Chong Nonsi where it turns east to join Silom Road before running along Ratchadamri and Rama I Rds. It is approximately 6.5 km in length with seven stations, including the shared interchange station. This line also has a structural provision for construction of one additional station in the future.

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"The system will stretch 23.5 km, and we will have one common station at Siam Square. Our depot will be near the Mor Chit bus station. BTSC will have kiss n'ride facilities, as park n'ride facilities are unfeasible given the small number of vehicles that could accommodate.

"When we originally signed the contract we targeted the ticket price at Bt15 but with a provision for the consumer-price-index cost allowance. So, now by the time we open near the end of 1999 we are probably looking at a ticket in between the range of Bt20 and Bt25."

While Khun Karoon admits that this price may be a little high for the poorer residents of Bangkok he says it will offer those who can afford it a tremendous way to save both time and money. "By leaving their car behind, they are not paying for its operation (which can be Bt10 a kilometer), and by taking the electric train they are saving themselves from getting stuck in those agonizing traffic jams," he stated.

Quizzed about the concerns raised by students, parents and teachers at Mater Dei School on Ploenchit Road Khun Karoon remarks, "When we finish our first station on Silom Rd we will set-up a research station to study the environmental impact of the BTSC and then we will work together with a number of different groups to study the findings and ambient air quality around the station. We will then come up with any solutions to problems that may arise."

Describing the status of the project the chief operating officer says, "All systems are now go. We don't expect any more political interference. All are technical and financial aspects are taken care of, and legal matters were fully secured when we were granted the concession. Now, we just have to expedite the construction and completion of the project."

Khun Karoon's parting comment was, "Nowadays, people are forced to buy cars to get around and these vehicles create emissions and noise pollution further adding to our woes. The BTSC is the only hope left for Bangkok citizens to solve this city's chronic traffic woes."

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