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NEWS UPDATES 21 October 2009

Thai cabinet approves measures to resolve rail crisis

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Thai cabinet on Tuesday approved short term measures to deal with the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) service stoppage, and the transport ministry said there would be no talks with its union until the staff return to work and resume train services, state news agency TNA reported.

Transport Minister Sophon Zarum told reporters after the cabinet met that it approved the SRT executive board’s amending its regulations, allowing 120 intern engineers already employed by the state agency, and volunteer retired train drivers to stand-in for the train drivers on leave who have caused the rail service suspension.

The minister said that now SRT has enough drivers and will bring four locomotives from Hat Yai Station to run a special train from Kanchanaburi to Padang Besar, a Thai-Malaysian border town in Songkhla’s Sadao district.

As for fears regarding train safety when operating in the southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, Mr Sophon said he sought help from Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan for security personnel to ensure passenger safety.

For long-term solution to the train problem, Sophon said the ministry has three weeks to submit a plan to cabinet’s consideration.

The cabinet addressed a walkout by SRT staff who have been off the job since Friday, forcing the suspension of all southern train services. Almost all long-haul routes from Bangkok's Hua Lampong station were forced to stop at Surat Thani.

The SRT union asked for urgent repairs on at least seven locomotives, saying more than a dozen others needed serious maintenance, claiming that SRT management ignored their demands for necessary maintenance.


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