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MRT operator ditches seats as it struggles with passenger surge

Nov 20. 2017
Photo from: MRT Bangkok Metro's Facebook fanpage
Photo from: MRT Bangkok Metro's Facebook fanpage
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THE MRT Metro blue line operator is trying to solve problems associated with overcrowded trains by removing seats in the middle |train cars to provide more space for passengers.

Bangkok Expressway and Metro Public Company Limited (BEM) managing director Sombat Kitjalaksana said yesterday the removal of the seats was a temporary measure to increase passenger capacity on the MRT Metro blue line system as BEM waited for the delivery of new trains.

A statement, announced on the official MRT Metro Facebook page, said yesterday was the first day of a trial period, as one of the 19 trains in service had been modified by removing the seats.

Sombat added that the removal of seats would not affect safety, but admitted that some passengers might “feel odd” due to the change.

However, he said removing seats was a common practice in many countries and BEM had also implemented other measures to solve the overcrowding problem such as increasing the number of staff during rush hour and maintaining a stock of train spare parts to reduce delays during service disruptions.

“I also would like to ask passengers to be prepared before getting onto the train and leaving the train. 

“They should queue in line to board the train to speed up the passenger flow,” Sombat said. Aim Chato, a frequent passenger on the MRT Metro blue line, said he agreed with the measure.

“The intention of the subway system is to transport people to their destination as fast as possible, so it makes sense to get rid of some seats and open additional space for more passengers to board the train,” Aim said.

Another passenger, Kitiwat Puttanupap, said the measure could not resolve the overcrowding problem completely and suggested that instead of removing the seats, BEM should add more train cars to increase capacity.

“I don’t think this is a good idea [to solve the congestion problem] and it also shows that the company is only looking for more profit, because they do not have to invest in anything to remove the seats, but they can get more passengers,” Kitiwat said.

According to an earlier report, Sombat said BEM had purchased 35 new trains for Bt20 billion, which will be ready for service in late 2019, as the company had registered rapid growth in the number of passengers and revenue from subway fares on the MRT Metro blue line.

The sharp growth in passengers was attributed to the opening of the “missing link” between the blue line and purple line, as the average number of journeys on the MRT Metro blue line has increased from 340,000 journeys per day to 360,000.

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