The Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin, has rescheduled this week’s customary cabinet meeting due to an impending state visit to China. This significant development was disclosed by the Transport Minister, Suriya Juangroongruangkit.
Among the topical issues sparked by this shift includes the public discourse revolving around a popular “Quick Win” campaign policy of the dominant Pheu Thai Party, scheduled for a crucial discussion. This policy involves a flat 20-baht fare rate, which was a pressing promise crafted to gain traction from the body of voters during the most recent election period.
Historically, fare prices traversing the two pivotal lines have always been dependent on the journey’s length. It varied from rates as low as 14 baht to as high as 42 baht. This fare adjustment seeks to introduce a level fare rate system that is less chaotic and more financially manageable for passengers.
The preliminary implementation of this 20-baht rate was done on two major lines for testing purposes. The Purple Line running from Taopoon to Bang Phai, covering a length of 23 kilometres and 16 stations, and the Red Line stretching from Bang Sue to Taling Chan and Rangsit, spanning 26km and 15km respectively, with 14 stations combined. The inception of the 20-baht rate was closely monitored by Suriya at the Krung Thep Apiwat Central Station, which is the starting point of the Red Line route.
In Suriya’s official statement, he termed the fare reduction as a “New Year gift” that had been expedited to alleviate the financial pressure on the citizens. He expressed optimism in seeing an increase in the two lines’ daily commuting traffic by estimating an additional 10,000 and 5,000 passengers for the Purple Line and the Red Line respectively.
Furthermore, he disclosed that the Transport Ministry is in the process of setting up a committee to liaise with the private operators of the other electric railways. The goal of the talks is to appeal to these private operators to also adopt the provision of the 20-baht fare rate.
According to Suriya, the adoption of a universal ticketing system bill, that would regulate a flat rate fare system across all electric rail lines, is a primary requirement. He further revealed that the law proposal was currently being crafted by the Ministry and would be forwarded for Cabinet endorsement within the current year. He, however, clarified that it could take up to another year for the House of Representatives to grant final approval.
The proposed bill encompasses the formation of a ticket fund by the Transport Ministry. This fund would offset the projected decline in earnings that private operators may experience following the fare revision, adding to the all-inclusive benefits of the policy change.