SUBWAY: Suriya to decide on re-opening

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Transport officials, operator BMCL at odds over date of service’s resumption

Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreang-kit will decide today whether the subway system can re-open tomorrow following the suspension of services after an accident on January 17.

“The transport minister will have the final say,” MRTA governor Prapas Chongsanguan said yesterday.

The collision between two trains, which injured more than 200 passengers, prompted the Mass Rapid Transit Authority (MRTA) to demand amendments in the concession contract granted to the subway operator, Bangkok Metro Public Company Limited (BMCL).

Prapas said Suriya would decide on whether the subway should be allowed to resume operations after he was briefed on the planned amendments.

The MRTA had demanded that the BMCL sign the amended contract by 10am today if it wanted to resume services tomorrow.

But BMCL said it would not be able to meet the deadline because as a public company it had to get approval from its shareholders and creditors before signing the amended contract.

Prapas said that the MRTA and BMCL had already agreed on most of the planned amendments that address safety concerns. They remain divided on just one main point: whether the regulator hired by MRTA or the one hired by BMCL should make final decisions during operations, and what their respective roles and responsibilities would be.

Prapas said he expected BMCL shareholders would approve the planned amendments because everyone should give first priority to safety.

BMCL executive Sombat Kijjalak said the company would not object if the MRTA regulator took charge of train traffic, provided it was more experienced and capable than BMCL’s regulator.

“We just need to clarify that for efficient operations,” he said.

He said the details of this issue could be tackled later, and expected a clear framework on the scope of responsibilities of the regulators to be ready by March 1.

Sombat said BMCL had lost income of about Bt2.3 million a day due to the suspension of services.

The subway operator staged emergency drills during the past two weeks to ensure that passengers could be evacuated quickly in case of fire or bomb threats and that officials responded efficiently to control the situation. Necessary repairs were also carried out on the track and stations.

“We are now ready to resume our services, both in terms of tracks and personnel,” Sombat said.

He said Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and some Cabinet members would ride the subway today to boost public confidence in the underground system.

Published on January 31, 2005

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