MRT Blue Line
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|Opening||July 3, 2004|
|Owner||Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand|
|Operator(s)||Bangkok Metro Public Company Limited|
|Depot(s)||Huai Khwang Depot|
|Rolling stock||19 three-car trains Siemens Modular Metro|
|Line length||21 km (13 mi)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm standard gauge|
The MRT Chaloem Ratchamongkhon Line (Thai: รถไฟฟ้ามหานคร สายเฉลิมรัชมงคล) or Blue Line is the first and currently only operating line of Bangkok's MRT system. Opened on 3 July 2004, it runs eastward from Bang Sue Station in Chatuchak District along Kamphaeng Phet, Phahon Yothin and Lat Phrao Roads, then turns south following Ratchadaphisek Road, then west following Rama IV Road to Hua Lamphong Station in Pathum Wan District.
A much delayed 27 km extension to the Blue line finally began construction in mid 2012 due for completion in April 2019, 2 years later than what it was originally planned.
For the first MRT line, officially known as Chaloem Ratchamongkhon or informally as the "Blue Line", most civil infrastructure were provided by the government sector, Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA), and handed over to their concessionaire under a 25-year concession agreement. Bangkok Metro Company Limited (BMCL) is the only private sector company that won a bid in MRTA's concession contract for the blue line. As MRTA's concessionaire, BMCL provides M&E equipment, including electrical trains, signalling systems, SCADA, communication, PSD, etc. for the subway project and fully operates the system. To maintain the system, BMCL has subcontracted in 10 years to Siemens which was the M&E system supplier since system opening and 7 years maintenance contract to two local maintenance services for north and south line.
The construction of the first Bangkok Metro line, officially known as Chaloem Ratchamongkhon (Thai สายเฉลิมรัชมงคล) – "Celebration of Royal Auspice" – or informally as the "Blue Line", began on 19 November 1996. The project suffered multiple delays not only because of the 1997 economic crisis, but also due to challenging civil engineering works of constructing massive underground structures deep in the water-logged soil upon which the city is built.
The Blue Line was opened for a limited public trial period of several weeks starting on 13 April 2004. On 3 July 2004 the line was officially opened at 19:19 local time by HM King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit, who were accompanied by other members of the royal family. Within 30 minutes of its opening, sightseers filled the system to its maximum capacity, but after the initial rush ridership has settled down to around 180,000 riders daily — considerably lower than projections of over 400,000, despite fares being slashed in half from 12-38 baht to 10-15 baht per trip. Current ridership (2012) stands at 240,000 on weekdays.
The 21-kilometer, 18-station Blue line presently runs from Bang Sue to Hua Lamphong via Phra Ram 9 and has a carrying capacity of 40,000 people in each direction per hour. Similar to the Skytrain, the Metro uses trains supplied by Siemens which travel up to 80 km/h. Passengers can conveniently connect to the Skytrain at Si Lom, Sukhumvit and Chatuchak Park stations. The metro has a large depot in Huai Khwang district, which is located between Phra Ram 9 and Thailand Cultural Centre stations.
Due to safety considerations, platform screen doors are installed. Uniformed security personnel and security cameras are present at each and every platform. Currently 19 three-car metro trains, of the Siemens Modular Metro type, are used. Each metro train consists of two motor cars and a centre trailer car.
Major accident record
On 17 January 2005, just after 09:15, an empty train returning to the depot collided with a peak-hour train filled with passengers at the Thailand Cultural Centre station. 140 people were hurt, most of whom sustained only minor injuries, and the entire Metro network was shut down for two weeks.
After initial investigations, it was found that the empty train had run into problems shortly before the accident, grinding to a halt on a curve leading to the depot. The driver applied its brake and was waiting to be towed to the maintenance centre close to Thailand Cultural Centre station.
A rescue train was attempting to connect to the stalled train when the driver was told to release the brake while coupling had not yet been successful. It was then that the empty train began to roll backwards at a speed of ten metres per second, before smashing into the other train, which was carrying passengers. Therefore, it was believed that the incident was caused by negligence due to insufficient training of operation staff. This accident also resulted in two damaged trains with heavily damaged areas limited to the two leading cars. The colliding speed was suspected to be about 60 km/h due to the appearance of damaged areas. However, one train, which was rebuilt from the repair of the minor-damaged cars, was already fitted for operation at the end of 2006 and the remaining one was still under heavy repair until mid of 2007; it was released into service in October, 2007. The cost resulting from the accident might be a much higher figure than BMCL quoted, and it was expected to be at least 400 million baht, which was totally insured by a local insurance company.
The Metro resumed full operation on 1 February 2005, and passenger numbers soon rose back to pre-crash levels, partly due to a temporary promotional fare scheme which allowed passengers to travel any distance on the MRT for only ten baht (~0.33 USD).
Current extension under construction
The 27 km Blue Line extension will form a quasi circle line (loop). It consists of 19 stations (4 underground stations and 15 elevated stations). (The current terminus at Bang Sue is being extended 1.2 km to Tao Poon as part of the Purple Line project).
From Tao Poon the line will run elevated west along Pracha Rat Sai 2 rd, cross the Chao Praya river and then run south along the Ratchadapisek inner ring road (Charan Sanit Wong rd) terminating at Tha Phra. From the current Hualomphong terminus the line runs 5.4 km underground through Chinatown, under the Chao Praya river to Tha Phra station where it surfaces. It then runs west along Phetkasem road to Lak Song.
The project is divided into 5 contracts:
- Contract 1: 2.8 km underground from Hua Lamphong to Sanam Chai
(2 stations, Bt11.65 Billion, contractor ITD).
- Contract 2: 2.6 km underground Sanam chai-Tha Phra
(2 stations, for Bt10.82B, contractor CK)
- Contract 3: 11 km elevated from Tao Poon along Charan Sunit Wong rd (Inner Ring rd) to Tha Phra
(8 stations, Bt11.40B, contractor SH-Unique Joint venture)
- Contract 4: 10.5 km elevated from Tha Phra along Phetkasem rd to Lak Song
(7 stations, plus a park-and-ride venue and maintenance yard, Bt13.43B, contractor STEC)
- Contract 5: rolling stock and systems, Bt5.17 Billion, contractor CK.
As of July 2014 civil works progress was 52% done. By October, civil works were 63.75% done.
For a few years there has been requests from residents to further extend the line from the future terminus at Lak Song further west to Phutthamonthon area and the MRTA has indicated a willingness to undertake this extension. In July 2014, the MRTA submitted a request for 84 million baht to complete a route survey for an 8 km extension from Lak Song to Phutthamonthon Sai 4.
- "รถไฟฟ้าสายสีน้ำเงิน อุโมงค์ลอดใต้แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา" [Blue Line Tunnel under the river]. Voice TV21 (in Thai). 3 February 2015.
- "Bangkok's first underground metro open". International Railway Journal. findarticles.com. July 2004. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
- "Thai subway shut for safety probe". BBC News. 17 January 2005. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
- "คมนาคมตามความคืบหน้ารถไฟฟ้า 10 สาย เร่งสีม่วงเปิดปลายปี’58 ชงคสช.อนุมัติอีก 6 สาย" [Transport under accelerated progress Metro Purple Line 10 opened in late '58. NBC maker. Approved by 6 lines.] (in Thai). 28 July 2014.
- "ลุ้นคลังไฟเขียวงบรถไฟ-รฟม" [Win No Green Light Railway Company - MRTA]. Than Online (in Thai). 15 July 2014.
- "MRTA Blue Line extension website"
- "Skyscrapercity Blue Line construction thread" Regular updates, articles, pictures and commentary (In Thai)
- "2Bangkok Blue Line construction thread" Semi-regular updates, articles, pictures and commentary (In English)