The Department of Rail Transport (DRT) has publicly backed new plans proposed by the Pheu Thai Party regarding the Bangkok metro charges, stating that they could be viable with an annual budget allocation from the government. Valued at 5.4 billion baht, this subsidy would support a significant cost reduction in Metro fares.
The Pheu Thai Party formally presented their policy for a flat-rate 20-baht metro fare during the recent election campaign period. Accompanied by a comprehensive budget proposal of 40 billion baht, the Party additionally requested an 8 billion baht annual contribution from the regular budget allocation to support ongoing costs. According to Pheu Thai Party representatives, the budget allocation is not only necessary, but advantageous—given that the potential benefits greatly exceed the involved costs.
Pichet Kunathammarak, the director-general of the Department of Rail Transport, stated that while the proposed 20-baht fare policy indeed is feasible, there needs to be detailed government analysis and concrete decisions concerning target groups and implementation timelines. Likewise, he emphasized the importance of clarifying the policy’s longevity before considering the allocated budget or possible compensation to the private sector.
In light of these concerns, the DRT has conducted a detailed study concerning the policy’s feasibility, focusing on various target groups:
Looking at the most feasible option, the DRT indicated that only extending the reduced 20-baht fare to low-income individuals possessing state welfare cards. The necessary software and databases are well-prepared for such changes to be implemented. At present, the government provides state welfare cardholders with a travel allowance of 750 baht per month. The DRT believes that reducing the average train fare, currently at 30-40 baht, to 20 baht could motivate more individuals to utilize train services.
Considering another option of providing the reduced fare only during specific time frames or only on certain routes maintained by the state (such as the Red Line and MRT Purple Line), the DRT mentioned that monthly tickets for regular commuters could also be investigated, which currently cost an average of 25 baht per trip. Under this model, there would be a smaller financial burden placed on the government to compensate the private sector.
Lastly, the DRT anticipated a cost of around 5 billion baht per year if this reduced fare policy is to be made available across all consumer groups.