BANGKOK — The long-awaited rail extension west through Chinatown and across the river will open to the public for a test run beginning in April, the transport minister announced Tuesday.
The new line, which runs both above and underground, will run from MRT Hua Lamphong to Bang Khae district in the western suburbs. Minister Pailin Chuchottaworn told reporters riding trains during the testing phase will be free, while full operation will start in September.
“Installation of the train system is now 71 percent completed,” Pailin said, adding that three trains will arrive to service the line in March. The number of trains will reach 35 by next year, the minister said.
Fourteen stations will serve the extension of the 15-year-old Blue Line. Unlike the cold, modern design of its existing stations, some of the new stops were designed by architects and artists to reflect traditional Thai architecture.
The line will stop at Wat Mangkon, Sam Yot, Sanam Chai, Itsaraphap, Tha Phra, Bang Phai, Bang Wa, Phet Kasem 48, Phasi Charoen and Bang Khae before terminating at Lak Song.
Commuters can change to the Tao Poon-bound elevated train line at MRT Tha Phra, though that route will not open till March 2020. MRT Bang Wa is also an interchange to the BTS skytrain system.
An even longer extension will link MRT Lak Song to the Thawi Wattana district, though construction won’t be finished until March 2020, at the most optimistic. The full Blue Line extension project will cost an estimated 80 billion baht.