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22 Jul, 2002

Bangkok Skytrain Moves to Double Daily Tourist Useage

Bangkok’s popular Skytrain has embarked upon a number of long-overdue initiatives to double the number of tourists using it daily.

After having nearly totally ignored the huge potential of visitor traffic since opening in December 1999, and lost millions of baht in untapped business, the management of the Bangkok Mass Transit System PCL (BTS) is now targetting 10,000 visitors a day, up from the present estimate of 5,000, which will gain it an additional income of about one million baht a day.

BTS managing director Paul Anderson last week briefed members of the Thai Hotels Association about the new initiatives which, he noted, would help overcome Bangkok’s negative image about traffic conditions, improve the quality of visitor experience and attract repeat traffic as well as more big-ticket events like conventions and exhibitions.

Punctuality, safety and security are among the buzzwords being used to get visitors to start using the Skytrain as the best and most environmentally friendly means of transportation in one of Asia’s most exciting cities.

According to a separate announcement by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the BTS has allocated 10 million baht for the Tourist Service Development Project as part of plans to boost average daily ridership from 250,000 to 300,000 passengers by the end of 2002, which will be nearly double the 150,000 passengers per day using it when it opened.

The project includes the launch of one-day and three-day tourist passes, establishment of Tourist Service Centers, organisation of Chao Phraya River Tour and improvement of other visitor-related services and facilities.

These initiatives build upon the Skytrain’s network that links dozens of hotels, department stores, shopping centres, tourist attractions and entertainment spots.

Shopping complexes like Central Chitlom, Emporium, Tesco Lotus, Home Pro, Siam Center, MBK, Silom Complex are linked by walkways directly into their centres from the Skytrain stations, and the upcoming Gaysorn complex on Rajdamri road has followed suit.

Mr. Anderson’s pitch to the hoteliers was very clear — by sending more business to the Skytrain, they will be vastly enhancing the overall appeal of visiting the city and hence increasing their own business.

He reminded hoteliers that the city’s population, now estimated to be 11.4 million and projected to rise to 13.7 million by 2011, would add to traffic, congestion and environmental problems.

He cited the more than five billion litres of fuel used by Bangkok cars in 1999, or 25pc of the total consumption in Thailand, as well as the World Bank study which suggested that 5-10pc of all deaths in Bangkok are caused by particulates and emissions associated with traffic congestion.

A report by the BTS in this month’s American Chamber of Commerce official publication says that pollution and traffic congestion not only damages Thailand’s investment image, but is estimated to cost the city Bt100 billion per year in lost work hours, unnecessary expenses, excess vehicle operation and wasted fuel.

Electrified public transportation systems such as the Skytrain are not only fuel and space efficient, they have zero vehicle carbon emissions. A full train of 100 passengers makes less noise than even a handful of single-rider motorcycles, the report said.

Mr. Anderson said the Skytrain has reduced the need for parking in the city centre by about 50,000 cars per day.

One priority now is to grow the Skytrain network based on the commercial philosophy that connecting to the Skytrain system stimulates growth, revives neighborhoods, and raises property value.

However, a major weakness is the absence of direct links to major convention centres, including the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, the Bangkok Convention Centre, part of the Central hotel and department store complex on Phaholyothin, and the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre (BITEC) in Bang Na.

Mr. Anderson said that at the moment, shuttle buses operate from Onnuj to BITEC as well as from Asoke station to the QSNCC, whenever major events are held there.

The Cabinet has approved the extension of another six stations from Onnuj to Samrong and talks are under way with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to complete this within two to three years.

Two other extensions approved are from Taksin station to Taksin junction, and Chong Nonsi station to Rama III at Sathu Pradit junction. Construction has begun on the Taksin over the Chao Phraya river to Wong Wian Yai station.

The newly-launched one- and three-day tourist passes are designed to help visitors enjoy unlimited travel during the specified periods. The one-day pass costs 100 baht and the three-day pass 280 baht. Both are available at all BTS ticket offices as well as from several hotels, tour operators, department stores and souvenir shops.

To help visitors get around, Tourist Service Centres have been set up at Siam, Taksin Bridge and Nana stations, open from 8.00 am – 8.00 pm daily. The centres have a rest area, souvenir corner and international phone and Internet services. By the end of 2002, four more Tourist Centres will be set up at Phrom Phong, Sala Daeng, National Stadium and Mo Chit stations.

The BTS has teamed up with the Chao Phraya Express Boat to offer visitors a three-hour river and canal tour that will include the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), Royal Barge Museum and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha & the Grand Palace. The tour departs daily at 9.00 am from the Taksin Bridge pier. Tickets are available at the Tourist Service Centres at 780 baht per person including snacks and soft drinks, an English-speaking guide and all admission fees.

Other initiatives to improve tourist services include better direction signage and station map with more details of major visitor attractions and the Skytrain network, and information racks (‘Skyracks’) and touch-screen computers providing information on tourist spots, shopping centers and restaurants.

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