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NEWS UPDATES 23 August 2010

Bangkok airport rail link opens

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A train that links central Bangkok to the Thai capital's main international airport in 15 minutes opened Monday. Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport - Asia's third busiest by passengers in the first half of this year according to Airports Council International - has for several years been the only major travel hub in the region to lack a direct rail link to the central city.

The Airport Rail Link was first approved by the Cabinet in 2003 and took almost seven years to complete. It was originally intended to open with Suvarnabhumi Airport in 2006.

Several problems with the rail link still need to be fixed including loud door noises and the large gap between the train and platform in some stations. A baggage check-in service modeled on Hong Kong's hyper-efficient airport express train has yet to begin operating.

Yet it costs half the pice of a taxi at 100 baht or $3 for the 18-mile (28-kilometer) trip between the capital's Makkasan station and Suvarnabhumi. The fare is a promotional rate that is expected to increase to 150 baht ($4.50) next year.

The express trains run every half hour at a maximum speed of 64 miles per hour (103 kilometers per hour), making it "the fastest rail system in the country," State Railway of Thailand's governor Yutthana Thapcharoen was quoted as saying in The Bangkok Post.

A local, commuter line that runs parallel to the express train and makes a half dozen stops costs between 15 baht and 45 baht (50 cents and$1.40), depending on where passengers board. Critics say the express train's Bangkok station, the Makkasan station, is inconveniently located and not connected to other mass transit lines.

A check-in service that will enable passengers in Bangkok to get boarding passes and check-in luggage is not yet in place but is expected to begin working in November.

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