A Tale of Public Transports in Bangkok

Thailand, Bangkok, public transport, rail services, BTS

Some bad and good news are targeting commuters and users of public transport in Bangkok. While fares for taxis will increase from September 1st, there is a possibility to see in the near future a decrease in fares for BTS and commuter train services in the capital, according to the Ministry of Transport.

After many years of delaying a fare increase, Thailand Minister of Transport Saksayam Chidchob finally agreed on a 10% hike in taxi fares starting from September 1st. Under the new pricing structure, the flag fare of 35 baht for the first kilometre will remain unchanged. However, the price per kilometre for the first 10km will rise by 0.50 baht, while the fare if the taxi is blocked in a traffic jam will rise from THB2 to THB3. The surcharge at airports will also go up from THB50 to THB70. The Ministry is also officially legalising ride hailing services available on apps.

Furthermore, another hike has been implementing on public bus in Bangkok by 20%. Although bus fares remain cheap, it will certainly make a dent into the purchasing power of commuters using buses in town, mostly used by the least wealthy workers of the capital.

Unfortunately for Bangkok commuters and tourists, public transport in the Thai capital are among the priciest in Southeast Asia, if not the most expensive. This is particularly true for the BTS Skytrain system despite a very mediocre service offered to commuters. Fares can go up to THB59 (US$2) and hang on average at THB44 (US$1.50) for an individual ticket including eight stops. Thailand Minister of Transport seems now to realise that taking public transport in Bangkok – an efficient way for reducing both traffic jam and pollution- is costing more money, a lot more money for individual passengers.

BTS Skytrain network operator proposed in recent months a potential fare reductions of 10%-15%. This would put Bangkok public transport ticket at the level of Singapore LTR/MTR system. However, the Minister of Transport is now looking at lowering a single fare ticket within Bangkok city to THB15 (US$0.49 at the exchange rate on 12/08/19). The Ministry is first looking at implementing the new fare for the Airport Express – run by the State Railways SRT- and for the two-year-old MRT Purple Line. The governor of the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand governor said to be ready to lower fares if the government agrees to subsidise operational costs for private concessionaires.

It is now to be hoped that the Ministry will be able to rapidly implement the fare reform for all commuter rail services in the Thai capital.

Bangkok is also the last large city in Southeast Asia which is incapable of harmonising its fares between the different public transport operators -BTS, MRT and SRT- and offering a single ticket. Discussions for an implemented unique ticket started ten years ago but vested interest seem to dominate the negotiations with no tangible result for a foreseeable future.

Price for a 5-stop ride in selected cities with LRT/MRT in Southeast Asia

Bangkok BTS     THB 33                   US$1.07

Bangkok MRT    THB 27                  US$0.88

Jakarta MRT      IDR 8,000            US$0.56

Kuala Lumpur LRT    RM2.10        US$0.50

Kuala Lumpur MRT  RM2.50        US$0.60

Manila LRT                 PHP15          US$0.29

Singapore LTR           S$0.93          US$0.67

Singapore MTR           S$1.13          US$0.82

(Exchange rate on 12/08/19. Fares August 2019)