Bangkok’s long-awaited rail link between Suvarnabhumi International Airport and the inner city has carried out its first major passenger test.
The rail link is seen as a major boost for Bangkok’s status and will cut transfer times given the Thai capital’s notorious traffic jams.
Around 100 specially invited guests travelled on the 15-minute rail journey from Makkasan Station in Bangkok to the airport station 28km away, with the train reaching speeds of 160kmh.
The new development will allow pre-airport check in at the City Airport Terminal at Makkasan Station. Initially, 24 check-in counters will be in operation with a further dozen or so coming on stream to meet demand.
The multimillion dollar project run by the State Railway of Thailand was originally scheduled to take under three years but has taken twice that long. It is due to begin services in December this year and go into full operation next year.
Two lines will be operated. The first is the express service, which will take 15 minutes and will run from 5am until 1am, a 20-hour period. Train frequency is expected to be every 15 minutes and each train will carry around 170 passengers in three coaches with a fourth carriage devoted to luggage. There are plans to increase the frequency to every 10 minutes in a few years.
The train carriages have a 2-2 seat set-up in both forward- and reverse-facing configurations.
The second train, the City Line, will operate as a commuter service, taking 30 minutes from the airport to its terminal at Phaya Thai Station with stops at Ratchaprarop, Makkasan, Ramkhamhaeng, Hua Mak, Ban Thap Chang and Lat Krabang. This train will have three passenger coaches and hold 745 passengers. The city line’s frequency will be every 15 minutes during peak hours and then every half an hour off peak.
Ticketing prices have not been finalised although automatic ticket-vending machines showed a price of THB160 (US$4.85) for a one-way trip. This compares with a metred taxi trip of around THB250 (US$7.58) to hotels in the Sukhumvit area, where many business hotels are clustered, or the THB900 (US$27.28) ride on the official airport limousine service for a similar distance.
However, Makkasan Station is still around 20 to 30 minutes away from Sukhumvit and other areas of hotel clusters by inner city taxi.
Suvarnabhumi International Airport station will have both an exit tunnel connecting to the airport and to the Novotel airport hotel.