BANGKOK — Commuters were left stranded once again Tuesday morning as the BTS Skytrain broke down for the 11th time this month in a series of outages that has led to calls for compensation and revocation of the operator’s license.
Public rage ratched up another notch after the popular city rail network broke down during the morning rush hours for a second consecutive day. The system was inoperable from 6:15am to 8:57am, according to the official BTS twitter account, which blamed the outage again on glitches with its signaling system.
An hour after the problem was reportedly resolved, commuters were still complaining on social media of trains stopped on platforms or between stations for more than 10 minutes.
After failing for four hours Monday, both lines, which serve an average of 900,000 riders daily, were down last night for six hours, from 3:40pm to 9:37pm. Monday’s outage prompted the transport minister to summon the company’s executives for an explanation.
After meeting with BTS board members yesterday, Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said he has pushed the company to improve service and compensate commuters for service disruptions.
“I asked BTS to cooperate on taking care of affected passengers, because it’s now a part of Bangkok’s lives, especially on how they inform people about delays” he said. “They also have to consider how they can compensate affected passengers, such as giving free tickets or a buy-1-get-1 promotion.”
Some BTS stations today have reportedly been refunding tickets during service disruptions.
Arkhom added that he asked the city transport authority to increase the amount of buses running through affected areas, and told the Land Transport Department to step up inspections to prevent taxis from taking advantage of the situation by overcharging.
Anat Arbhabhirama, a BTS board member, said that radio signals from buildings downtown were interfering with the signaling system, forcing train engineers to switch to manual operation. He said signal-blocking devices would be installed on every train to solve the problem.
BTS company director Surapong Laoha-Unya said last night that he expects the work to be completed by Friday and promised the same problem would not repeat while insisting the system is on time 99 percent of the time.
This month, BTS has already ground to a halt 11 times as of this morning. The combined downtime this month, according to the company’s Twitter reports, is approximately 18 hours.
On Twitter today, #BTS_Skytrain is on the No. 1 top trending topic, while #BTSGlitches is No. 6. Yesterday, #CancelBTSConcession, a call for the operator to be replaced, was on top trends until this morning. Some commuters have started an online petition demanding the system return to government hands from the private operator.
Launched in 1999, the German-built BTS Skytrain’s two lines have expanded to serve 35 stations with additional extensions expected to open in coming months and years.
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