BANGKOK — The missing dots between Mo Chit and Lad Phrao have finally been connected, with the new BTS station linking them now open to the public for test rides.
Commuters no longer have to transfer to the metro or take a bus to reach shopping malls like Central Plaza Lad Phrao and Union Mall after the soft opening of BTS Ha Yaek Lat Phrao, which began 3pm on August 9. Test rides will operate daily for free, but trains will only run the full commute to BTS Ha Yaek Lat Phrao outside of rush hours.
During rush hours on weekdays – 7am to 9am, and 4.30pm to 8pm – trains will terminate at Mo Chit to accommodate more traffic, so commuters will need to transfer to another train on the opposite platform to reach the new station.
BTS Ha Yaek Lat Phrao is one of 16 stations along the northern extension of the Sukhumvit Line, stretching from the previous terminus at Mo Chit to the suburbs of Khu Khot in Pathum Thani.
In an opening ceremony attended by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, ministers, and even construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta, Prayuth asked the operator to extend the free rides to December 5 and rebuffed rumors that he would resign.
“I’m still your prime minister. I’m not going anywhere,” he said.
Four more stations along the route – Phaholyothin 24, Ratchayothin, Sena Nikhom, and Kasetsart University – will open in December, while the rest will be ready next year.
Governor insists 65 baht fare cap ‘inexpensive’
On top of the new station, a lowered fare scheme has also been announced. A day earlier, city governor Aswin Kwanmuang took to his Facebook to assert to a disgruntled public that the 65 baht BTS fare cap is “inexpensive.”
“Under the previous fare scheme, commuters traveling a long distance would have had to pay more,” read Aswin’s post on Thursday.
Under the previous fare scheme, traveling from one end of the line to the other would have cost 158 baht. The previous scheme calculated fares along the original Sukhumvit Line – operated by the Bangkok Mass Transit System Plc. (BTSC) – separately from the city hall-owned extensions stretching from it. Commuters who wanted to travel from the northern terminus Khu Khot to the southern terminus Kheha would have had to pay the 15 baht base fare twice for the two extensions, 3 baht for each station, on top of the 44 baht for traveling the full length of the original Sukhumvit Line.
The new scheme, hammered between city hall and the BTSC, will keep the maximum fare capped to 65 baht. However, commuters be warned: the BTSC is being granted a 30-year contract to operate the entire system, with the right to raise fares every two years.
Last month, transport minister Saksiam Chidchob promised to slash the fare to a 15-baht flat rate. He said such a rate is possible along the MRT Purple Line, which runs from Tao Poon to Khlong Bang Phai, and the Airport Rail Link, which connects the city center to Suvarnabhumi Airport.
But the future is dim for the BTS, as the government has refused to subsidize fares to the private operator.