City Hall Fails to Make BTS Accessible 2 Years After Court Ruling

Unfinished structure for a street level elevator at BTS Ari was roped off with a sign saying it would be ready in September.

UpdateDisabled Activists to File Class-Action Lawsuit Over BTS Access

BANGKOK — City Hall has offered yet another vague deadline after the last passed for it to comply with a court order and retrofit its BTS Skytrain stations with elevators.

A year after the court’s deadline came and went without results, project developer Seri Construction said Monday it had no definite date for completing the work but “hoped” to see some of the stations open in the coming months.

Neither Seri nor the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has taken responsibility for failing to install elevators from the street to the platform level at 23 stations after the courts ruled on the part of disabled activists in January 2015.

Read: Broken Promises: BTS Still Off Limits to Disabled

The landmark ruling gave the city one year to complete the work.

In January 2016, City Hall apologized for failing to meet the court-imposed time frame. They then promised that every station would have operating elevators by the end of September.

The project has also changed leadership. When former Bangkok Gov. Sukhumbhand Paribatra was removed by the junta in August, the deputy governor who was responsible for the project also left City Hall.

Developer Seri previously said it expected elevators at seven stations to be running by the end of September. Now it says it will be another four months.

Itthiphol Boonrak, the developer’s project manager, said he now hopes elevators at some stations will be operating by early February.

“I pray it can be opened, at at least one station,” he said Monday, unable to give a more concrete date of completion.

Though unfinished construction sites can be seen at many stations, there does not appear to be visible work underway. Itthiphol said the elevator housings and shafts were mostly ready and only waiting for electricians to wire them for operation.

So why has it taken over two years to install elevators? He gave the same reasons offered the last time a reporter called to inquire. He said workers only have limited hours as they can only work after the BTS system shuts down, and issues with the underground infrastructure had made it more difficult than expected.

Disabled rights activists who helped bring the original suit and have pushed the issue for years said they are not pleased and planning renewing their campaign.

“How come City Hall doesn’t have any measures to deal with a developer who fail to satisfy contracts?” Manit Inpim said Monday.

The contract stipulates that City Hall must fine developer if it fails to complete the work as specified.

But they have yet to commit to further legal action. A lawyer with the Law Reform Commission of Thailand said in September that the burden is on the activists, who prevailed in their lawsuit, to notify the court that City Hall failed to satisfy the order.

Apichart Pongsawat said the court could then pursue a legal remedy, such as fining City Hall daily until it completes the construction.

A City Hall transportation official said they were still urging Seri to get the work done and remained hopeful some progress would be made despite the failures so far.

“We will open the first four stations in April,” said Prapas Luangsirinapha, who now oversees the project.

 

Related stories:

Broken Promises: BTS Still Off Limits to Disabled

Disabled Rights Group Weighs New Suit Over BTS Stations

BTS Stations Remain Inaccessible to Disabled, a Year After Landmark Ruling

Court Orders Skytrain to Accommodate Disabled Passengers