The commuter traffic in Bangkok is so overcrowded that some areas in the southeast-Asian city may see no single minute without traffic jams. There is however a bright light on the horizon, following news that the first eastern part of a two-stage construction of the new Orange Line Metro route may start ahead of schedule to link the Thailand Cultural Center with Bangkok's Min Buri district. Large construction companies have been selected for the state project and the contract-signing ceremony with the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) is expected in March 2017 at the latest to mark the start of this important infrastructure project in Bangkok.
Five contracts for construction of the 23km first stage of the project, which comprises about 14km of twin single-track tunnels underground alignment and 9km of elevated track and has a budget of more than THB80 billion (equivalent to about US$2.24 billion). The CKST Joint Venture of CH Karnchang and Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction submitted the lowest tenders for the first and second contracts and is selected for construction of the subway section progress west from the Thailand Cultural Center to Ram Khamhaeng Soi 12 and Hua Mak.
Italian-Thai Development plc is selected for the underground section of the third contract connecting Hua Mak with Khlong Ban Ma on Ram Khamhaeng Road and Unique Engineering and Construction Co will complete the fourth contract for a section of the elevated track linking Khlong Ban Ma to Suwinthawong Road in Min Buri. Unique Engineering and Construction Co will also complete the fifth contract to install the rail system for the eastern part of the Orange Line.
Bidding on the sixth and last contract, for the design and construction of the track work on the first phase section from Thailand Cultural Center to Suwinthawong opened in mid-December 2016 and will be published in 2017.
A programme for procurement of the final 17km of underground alignment of the Orange Line from the Thailand Cultural Center east to Taling Chan Station is yet to be announced by MRTA. The TBMs required for the current Phase 1 contracts are yet to be disclosed by the contractors.
The new Orange Line will eventually total about 40km with 31km aligned underground with 23 underground stations and another 9km and seven stations on elevated structures. The route starts underground at Taling Chan railway station, west of the city, passes under the Chao Phraya River near Somdet Phra Pin Klao Bridge, and connects to the depot of the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) which is located at the current MRTA Office Building (Fig 1). It then continues along the Rama IX road, turns left into Ram Khamhaeng Road, passes beneath the Lam Sari intersection and transitions to the elevated section from the Khlong Ban Ma Station and terminates at the Suwinthawong Station near the Ram Khamhaeng-Suwinthawong junction.
According to the latest official plan, the overall cost of the Orange Line project is budgeted at THB110.4 billion or about US$30.92 billion. Services on the new line are planned to start in 2022.
Early in December 2016, the MRTA submitted a controversial rail construction plan to the Ministry of Transport to link the MRT Blue Line Bang Sue Station with the Purple Line Tao Poon Station (Fig 1). According to the proposal, passengers on board the MRT network would easily interchange between the Blue and Purple Lines at the new interchange station. The plan is expected to be endorsed by the Thai Government Cabinet by end of December 2016 with construction work starting in August 2017.
The MRTA had also revised the planned extension of the Green Line with four stations from Sapan Mai to Khu Kot. The project called for the removal of the Ratchayothin overpass and was planned to be completed by February 2017. The overpass will be replaced by an underpass which will be constructed within a two-year period and is expected to open in late 2018.
Public metro transportation in Bangkok is divided into three mass transportation systems. After a start of the BTS Bangkok Mass Transit System at the end of 1999 with the skytrain system, mass rapid transit (MRT) services started on the first underground Blue Line in 2004 and the opening in 2010 of the Airport Rail Link that connects the suburban Lat Krabang area and the Suvarnabhumi Airport with the heart of Bangkok. The underground MRT system is the backbone of Bangkok’s public transportation.
The first MRT Blue Line with 18 stations runs 21km from Bang Sue to Hua Lamphong and has a capacity of 40,000 passengers per hour per direction. Extensions are underway, in the west direction from Hua Lamphong to Tha Phra, and into the south to Bang Khae. Final works of the extensions are expected to finish in 2017. Also possible is a later extension to a circular route of the Blue Line.
The 23km long elevated Purple Line links the Khlong Bang Phai Station in the Nonthaburi Province in the northern area to Tao Poon where an interchange is planned with the underground Blue Line. The Purple Line opened in August 2016 and is the first MRT line that operates mainly outside the urban Bangkok district.