Saree Ongsomwang, the chief secretary of Thailand Consumer Council (TCC), recently expressed her thoughts regarding the reduction of fares across the entire Bangkok Metropolitan Rapid Transit (MRT) network. This suggestion primarily stems from a strategic study conducted by the council, focusing on the state of public commuting in Bangkok.
The government indeed has been substantially underwriting the operational cost of red and purple lines of MRT owing to its continual financial losses. Still, TCC firmly believes that the losses might decrease as the lower fares could potentially coax more daily commuters onto the city’s excellent train services.
Highlighting the global practices, the council added that government subsidisation of public transportation fees is a norm worldwide. No examples exist where the average passenger carries the brunt of the full cost of public transit, as remarked by Ongsomwang.
The TCC further emphasized enhancing public transportation across 32 Thai provinces. They aim to ensure daily transportation access for residents with a modest fare structure which won’t exceed 5-10% of the prevailing minimum wage, i.e., around 35 baht per day.
Ongsomwang stated, “We’re in complete support of the government’s policy of a 20-baht train fare and are confident of its feasibility. Instituting a 20-Baht train fare will allow commuters to spend merely 40 baht for a round trip, substantially lowering commuting expenses.”
The TCC is vigorously promoting affordable, safe, and convenient transportation options, not only in Bangkok but further afield.
In the meantime, the cabinet is reviewing a proposal suggesting the implementation of the 20-baht fare policy on the Purple and Red lines of the Mass Rapid Transit Authority (MRTA) from the beginning of December. The adoption of this new fare policy won’t interfere with passengers already paying 14-17 baht per trip or special fares extended to the elderly citizens of Bangkok.
Vithaya Punmongkol, the deputy governor of MRTA, revealed that fares on the Yellow, Blue, and Purple lines have already undergone reductions. A similar fare reduction will be applied to the Pink Line once it commences its operations by the end of this year.
On the financial front, the imposition of a 20-baht train fare policy is predicted to decrease current revenue by roughly 190 million baht or approximately 60% of current earnings. However, such a reduced fare might lead to an average increase of about 10,000 daily commuters. This fare cut could considerably lessen commuting time for many citizens and, in turn, reduce air pollution and the burden on fossil fuels.
Dr. Pramuan Surejaruwattana, Associate Professor of the Faculty of Engineering at Chulalongkorn University, stated that the government should look into long-term policies to offset expenses, such as manufacturing trains domestically and leveraging state-owned land for commercialization.
Professor Pramuan suggests shifting the crux of focus from fare reduction to a vaster strategy aimed at alleviating the load on the government and accentuating self-sufficiency. Moreover, he hopes the government considers these issues as a matter of national importance and enhances the scope of national transportation accessibility.