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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs           8   August  2011

Poor Thai link to airport criticized

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The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is being urged to improve facilities at the Airport Rail Link to enhance Bangkok's competitiveness and provide travellers the level of convenience they enjoy in other capitals.

Key tourism associations and airlines have conveyed their worries about poor facilities and service at the Airport Link, which began operating in January. The rail service links Suvarnabhu-mi Airport and downtown Bangkok.

Only Thai Airways International has check-in counters at the downtown end of the Airport Rail Link, and they serve only 20 passengers per day, said Piyasvasti Amranand, president of the national carrier.

THAI operates two shifts per day at one counter, with one staff member per shift, a reduction from the four counters it operated at first. Bangkok Airways has shut down its check-in counters altogether because of the lack of passengers using them. The more than 80 other airlines flying in and out of Suvarnabhumi never opened city-end check-in counters.

Piyasvasti said this unpleasant situation was not due to THAI, but be-cause of the owner of the project, SRT.

The Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) on Friday raised the issue at a meeting, claiming that the authority had totally failed in its handling of this operation as it was attracting only a few passengers.

ATTA members said the big problem with the Airport Rail Link was that it was inconvenient to use. There is no direct connection with the MRT subway or BTS Skytrain and there are no lifts for those with large pieces of luggage.

Moreover, road traffic nearby is not well managed, so it can take passengers more time to reach the check-in counter than if they take a cab directly to airport.

The Airport Express Line (Makkasan-Suvarnabhumi Airport) charges Bt150 per passenger, while the City Line charges Bt15-Bt45 depending on distance. The Transport Ministry reported that the Airport Rail Link had 1 million commuters per month, but most of them were staff working at the airport.

ATTA members continue to recommend to their customers that they take public taxis to Suvarnabhumi Airport, as they offer more convenience at similar cost. Thais also prefer to take cabs or personal vehicles directly to the airport.

Anake Srishevachart, president of the Thai-Japan Tourism Business Association, urged the government to solve this problem as soon as possible to enhance competitiveness.

He said other big cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo had good airport rail-link systems that served a lot of passengers. "We are losing our competitiveness because of bad management and inconvenience. Tourists will feel uncomfortable using it until it is improved," he said.

Charoen Wangananont, president of Thai Travel Agents Association, the body catering to the outbound tourism business, urged the government to deal with this problem and offer tourists the best convenience.

The Transport Ministry's permanent secretary, Supot Saplom, said the ministry would tomorrow propose to the new government that it improve slow service at the Airport Link. The project costs Bt70 million per month to operate. SRT is considering running campaigns to attract passengers.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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