Ever imagined sailing across Bangkok on the MRT Purple Line or the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) Red Line without having to worry about an ever-fluctuating ticket price? As Thailand ushers in the New Year, that wish may just come true. Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit teases a thrilling “New Year’s present”—a 20-baht flat fare, slated for trial in the next upcoming three months.
The plan was unveiled in parliament following queries around the viability of such a fixed 20-baht rate. Thanks to Surachate Praweenwongwut, a conscientious opposition MP from the Move Forward Party, the flat-fare consideration became a talking point during the government’s policy announcement’s second day.
Firmly sticking to his guns, Minister Suriya highlighted the flat-rate system’s potential to pool and instigate fairness, primarily in favor of lower-income individuals and families striving to make ends meet. However, he maintains that the legislature currently lacks a solid direction regarding transport investment, casting doubts on the flat-rate policy’s scope.
Per Suriya Jungrungreangkit’s estimates, it could take a half-year period to push the flat-rate policy through the legislative pipeline. The reason being, a meticulous assembly of all line concessionaires and a negotiating body meant to hash out policy particulars with them is on the cards.
As stated, the minister intends to initiate a pilot test of the flat fare on both the MRT Purple Line and the SRT Red Line in a time frame coinciding with the New Year. His vision extends further into the future – “Within two years, people will only have to shell out 20 baht for commuting on all train lines. However, it will take some time to deliberate the negotiation”, the minister elucidated.
If everything goes according to plan, the flat fare would not just be limited to a single train line. The vision includes its application across all electric train lines, even for transfers between different lines, Surachate highlighted. However, the opposition MP temperately added that without a robust policy direction for the transport system investment, it’s challenging to gauge the flat-rate policy’s future extent.
Surachate expresses further concerns about the flat-rate policy not seeing success within the mandate’s initial three months owing to potential interference from the train lines’ private contractors. Certainly, only time will tell if the 20-baht flat fare will hold its promise of a smoother, more economical commute for the people of Thailand.