Three months after Chadchart Sittipunt took office as governor, his Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is still struggling to resolve the complicated issues surrounding the BTS Green Line and its extensions.
Even the slightest change in services or fares on the Green Line will impact millions of commuters in Greater Bangkok.
“We will have to consult with several agencies,” said Prof Tongthong Chandrasu, Chairman and Chairman of Krungthep Thanakom (KT), the trading arm of BMA.
“Ultimately, it may be necessary to rely on the Council of State [to solve the problems]he added, referring to government legal advisers.
Tongthong took over KT with the full support of Chadchart, who hoped he would help unravel the Green Line rumble.
What is the green line?
The Green Line is the name of the original BTS route that covers the inner area of the capital. It has been extended in two phases since the start of operations in 1999.
In Phase 1, the extension covered a 2.2 kilometer stretch on Silom Road from Saphan Taksin to Wongwian Yai and then to Bang Wa Station. The Sukhumvit road has also been extended with a 5.25 km stretch from South Onnut to Bearing station.
In phase 2, the extensions were extended with 13 additional stations added between Bearing and Kheha stations in Samut Prakan and 12 stations after Mo Chit station leading north to Pathum Thani.
The Green Line currently covers 59 stations spanning three provinces and covering a total distance of 67.45 km.
The concession to operate the line is held by Bangkok Mass Transit System Plc (BTSC), which invested in building the original BTS network. However, BTSC now also shares the concession with other investors through a fund.
Things started to get complicated when the Green Line was extended. BMA appointed KT to manage the original network for 13 years (2029-2042) after BTSC’s concession expires. However, KT hired BTSC to run the Green Line, including extension routes until 2042.
Yet, it appears that KT and BTSC only have a solid contract to operate the Phase 1 expansion, while confusion reigns over the Phase 2 concession.
Meanwhile, BMA still owes a huge amount of money to BTSC for the installation of train operation system and extension route services. Following negotiations involving a committee set up by the junta leader, the amount owed to BTSC by BMA exceeded 35.4 billion baht.
“We have raised this matter with Cabinet and are now awaiting comments,” the governor said.
Will BMA pay?
Chadchart said funds to cover the Phase 2 expansion roads have been included in BMA’s annual expenditure budget. This indicates that the Bangkok Metropolitan Council (BMC), which acts as the parliament for the capital, knew nothing about KT’s appointment to operate the Phase 2 expansion roads.
“We also found that although the operating contract for the Phase 1 extension road clearly states the funding required, for the Phase 2 extension there is only a memo stating that KT was assigned to take over the operations. The sums mentioned in the memo are also only ballpark figures,” Chadchart said.
The new Bangkok governor also explained that the Phase 2 expansion route documents state that KT is not a BMA representative.
Tongthong believes this issue is complicated enough to require the attention of the State Council, otherwise the Green Line disputes could become an endless saga.
“It’s also possible that KT will have to take on the debts, not the BMA,” he said.
Transparency and disclosure of data
While the BMA released its Green Line contract/memo with KT in a bid to promote transparency, it has yet to reveal the deal it struck with BTSC, citing concerns over possible legal ramifications. .
Normally, these agreements are strictly confidential, as their public disclosure can lead to more litigation.
“We are consulting with the attorney general’s office on the disclosure of these agreements,” Tongthong said.
Neither Chadchart nor Tongthong were involved in the preparation of the Green Line contracts, which took place years before they took their current positions.
Tongthong Chandransu: Legal Guru Unlocks Bangkok’s Multi-Billion Baht Investment Secrets
What does BTSC have to say?
BTSC chairman Keeree Kanjanapas said he didn’t understand why BMA and KT had focused on releasing confidential documents.
“I must stress that when the authorities sign contracts for the pink or yellow lines, these contracts will also contain a clause guaranteeing confidentiality,” he said of future rail concessions.
Keeree also said that it is not possible that the BMA does not know anything about the agreements signed by KT for the operation of the Green Line, because BMA is the main shareholder of KT.
“Let me clarify, we are the creditor, not the defendant,” he said.
He added that BTSC has not pressured BMA for debt payment recently as Chadchart has just started his tenure and needs time to investigate the matter.
Impacts on passengers?
Whatever solution is ultimately found to the Green Line dispute between BMA, KT and BTSC will have a big impact on commuters.
If the negotiations do not go well, tariffs will inevitably increase, which will aggravate the cost of living crisis. However, if the talks are productive, the tariffs will remain unchanged.
Saree Ongsomwang, secretary general of the Thai Consumer Council, expressed strong opposition to plans for a minimum Green Line fare of 14 baht with an additional 2 baht for each station traveled, but with a maximum fare capped at 59 baht. Saree thinks the maximum fare should not exceed 54 baht.
Prapat Chongsanguan, former head of Thailand’s National Railways and Thailand’s Mass Rapid Transit Authority, said there were several points of contention in the Green Line saga. These include questions about why there was no approval from BMC for the Phase 2 extension and why BTSC’s concession for the extension does not expire at the same time as its concession for the rest of the route.
“But given that these issues already exist, maybe it’s time to bring all the issues to the negotiating table. Do not just address one or more, but correct each point once and for all,” he said.
By General Office of Thai PBS World