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Prajin opposes city skytrain extension bid

Posted by pakin On May - 21 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

The Transport Ministry disagrees with City Hall’s plan to take over the two extended sections of the skytrain connecting Soi Bearing-Samut Prakan and Mor Chit-Khu Khot.

The plan has been floated by Bangkok Metropolitan Administration as it is in the process of negotiating with the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA), which oversees the planned construction of the two sections.

It proposes the city operate the Soi Bearing-Samut Prakan section, which extends beyond Bangkok.

Transport Minister Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong said Wednesday the MRTA would consider allowing City Hall to run only one section. “If the city rejects our offer, the MRTA is ready to operate everything,” he said.

The MRTA will wait for City Hall’s answer before going ahead with its next move, said MRTA board chairman Gen Yodyuth Boonyatikarn.

ACM Prajin has set July as the deadline for the final round of talks between the MRTA and City Hall.

The extension of the skytrain routes, or the Green Line, is part of the government’s plan to link the capital with neighbouring provinces with an electric rail network.

The existing elevated rail routes, which are run by Bangkok Mass Transit System Plc (BTS) under its contract with City Hall, end at Soi Bearing and Mor Chit stations.

According to the MRTA, a new 13km section will link Soi Bearing with Samut Prakan province in the southwest of Bangkok while the other 19km route will connect Mor Chit and Saphan Mai in Bangkok with tambon Khu Khot in Pathum Thani’s Lam Luk Ka district, to the north of the capital.

The construction of the Mor Chit-Khu Khot section is expected to start in June this year and will take five years to complete.

Meanwhile, Bangkok Metro Plc (BMCL), the current subway operator, insists the new Purple Line, which connects Bang Yai and Bang Sue, will open on Aug 12 next year.

That is a few months before the earlier opening set for December next year, said BMCL managing director Sombat Kitjalaksana.

The operation of electric trains on this 23-kilometre route is required to go through a trial period to ensure smooth and safe travel for commuters. The testing, which will take about six months, will start in October this year after the BMCL buys the first three trains in September.

“This is an electric train. It’s not a bus which can serve passengers immediately after delivery,” Mr Sombat said.

MRTA governor Peerayudh Singpatanakul said transport officials are planning to use a single ticketing system for the Purple Line which will allow its passengers to use the ticket for the skytrain together with other types of transport including subways and buses.

This system will help operators save on costs and will lead to cheaper fares for commuters, he said.

Jogging along on the Jacobite

Posted by pakin On May - 11 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

The steam-drawn tourist train that made its name in the “Harry Potter” movies is a great way to travel through the Scottish Highlands

PETER JAMES keeps a close eye on the fire, which glows a fiery red in the furnace of the black locomotive.

“The flame can’t go out, or then we have a problem,” says James, the stoker who shovels in the coal.

He will have fed in three-and-a-half tons of coal by the time the historic steam engine, The Jacobite, arrives at its destination, the station in Fort William.

And it’s certainly worth looking at the train as it idles at the station of the town in the Scottish Highlands, whistling and letting off steam.

When the wind blows, the releases wrap the waiting passengers in clouds of grey mist. Most board the train long before the whistle signals its departure.

Train lovers and tourists from all over the world sit in the seven carriages, which carry them on a journey through the picturesque mountains and lochs of the Highlands.

Among them are fans of JK Rowling’s best-selling Harry Potter series.

The Jacobite was used in the Harry Potter films to portray the Hogwarts Express, the train that takes the children from platform 9 3/4 at London King’s Cross to their magic school, Hogwarts.

“Once a year a group of Americans come over. They dress up as characters from the books and get on the train in their outfits,” says Florence, the conductor on the Jacobite for 19 years.

“It’s my job to look after the train and the passengers – in that order,” she says.

The train travels the 64 kilometres between Fort William and Mallaig, one of the most westerly fishing villages in Britain, between May and September.

It is from Mallaig that the ferries carrying passengers to the Isle of Skye and other islands in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides set off.

Otherwise there’s not much to see in the village. During the one-and-a-half hour stop there, there is more than enough time to admire every cottage several times.

And to find a place in one of the fish and chip shops, which quickly fill up after the arrival of the Jacobite.

But in the summer, when even in the Scottish Highlands it can be warm and sunny, Mallaig has its own charm.

“You can just jump into the water during the break,” says Florence.

In the high season, two trains travel the spectacular stretch every day, past fresh and saltwater lochs, mountains, valleys and deep blue coastal waters.

Apart from the sheep there is little else to disturb the majestic landscape.

Around an hour after the train has departed Fort William, Florence announces over the loudspeaker that it will soon be passing over the most spectacular part of the route and opens the few windows that still open.

Shortly before Glenfinnan station the Jacobite steams over a 380-metre-long Glenfinnan Viaduct.

Afterwards it is just minutes before the train arrives in Glenfinnan itself. The West Highland Railway Museum, where visitors can discover more about the single-track railway, is located directly on the platform.

It was mainly Irish immigrants who worked on the railway’s construction, beginning in 1897.

In those early years the Jacobite’s locomotive did not pull passengers, but was instead used to haul fish from the coast.

One compartment of the train remains outfitted as in the Harry Potter films, but is closed off to visitors.

The other carriages are more spartan except the first class car, which is outfitted as it was many decades ago. During the trip, tea and shortbread are served there.

The train soon reaches its destination – and the stretch Florence loves the most.

“Most passengers probably don’t even notice it,” she says.

Shortly before Mallaig there is a loch in a clearing. “It looks different every day, depending on the weather and the time of day,” says Florence.

“But I always look out of the window at the same place and admire the view.”

The passengers are enthused by the two-hour-long tour.

“It’s just great to sit in an old steam train and travel as they did back then,” says Helen, who comes from south of Edinburgh and is travelling with a friend.

They are less pleased though, when during the last stretch the train repeatedly travels through tunnels and the steam finds its way through the cracks around the windows.

“There is something to be said for the modern engines in trains nowadays,” Helen adds.