Bangkok Post Aug. 2, 2008Chaos on first day of free rides
Long waits, big crowds for bus, train services
The government's six-month package of free train and bus rides caused chaos and confusion among commuters on the first day of its launch. ''Go inside and stay close. The doors cannot be closed now. Share space, please,'' said Somthawil Rodrasami, a bus conductor of passenger bus No 29 running between Rangsit and Hua Lamphong.
The conductor's non-airconditioned bus provided free services under the government's scheme to ease the financial burden of the public.
On the first day of free rides, the number of passengers using her bus doubled during the morning rush hour. The bus was crowded with up to 270 passengers a trip, said Mrs Somthawil.
Pin-anong, a company employee, said she took a free ride on bus No 70 running between Prachanives 3 and Sanam Luang, but she was not happy with the service.
''It's crowded and hot. I have to wait at least half an hour for a bus offering free services. Other passengers have to wait more than one hour for the arrival of only one bus. So who can go to work on time? I had better take a pay-bus service so I will neither waste time nor become stressed,'' said Mrs Pin-anong.
A third-class train at Bang Sue station is crowded with passengers on the first day of the government's launch of free train and bus rides. — THITI WONNAMONTHA
Pimchanok Kaewmongkok, a secondary school student, said she did not want to pin her hopes on the free bus services as she had to wait several hours for a bus.
However, Nongnutch, 60, said the free rides won her heart.
In recent months, she had opted to stay at home to save money.
On the first day of free bus rides, she left her home in Charansanitwong to get on bus No 203 to Sanam Luang. The free service saved her about 50 baht a day.
Boonsri Thonprom, a housewife, said she caught the normal bus, mistaking it for a special bus, and left it after the conductor came to collect the fare.
Office worker Suthin, 42, said he set off early to catch the free bus offered close to his home, but it is not because he is poor. He said the service was free because the government was subsidising it.
''There's no free lunch. Why do I have to pay twice?'' he said.
He pays income tax and should not have to open his wallet when the government is ''generous'' enough to come up with a scheme which dents the public purse.
The free train service also received mixed reactions from passengers. Most said the free service was too limited in scope as it was available only on short-route and non-express trains.
Suchitra Sirichan, a cloth vendor who boarded a Bangkok-Ubon Ratchathani train service yesterday, said she was disappointed that the free ride did not include long-distance trips.
''Only small groups of people living in Bangkok and urban areas will benefit from the scheme. Those who live in remote areas who have low incomes will still have to pay,'' said Ms Suchitra.
Free train services available under the scheme run from Bangkok to satellite provinces such as Ayutthaya, Lop Buri, Ratchaburi, Phitsanulok, Nakhon Ratchasima, and Hua Hin station in Prachuap Khiri Khan.
Passengers travelling from Bangkok have to pay if they get off the line further on from these stations.
Kamnan Thongkaewla-ead, 67, who paid a full-price train ticket to Pattani province, said he did not expect any substantial benefit from the scheme.
''It is just a show the government uses to gain support from the public,'' he said.
Passenger Chintana Ratanaburi, who travelled to Phichit, said she was happy with the free-ride initiative because she could take a free train to meet her son in the province more often.
However, she said it was a shame the service did not last longer. The free-ride scheme runs until January 31.
The State Railway of Thailand predicts train passengers will increase 20% during the period.
Chiang Mai railway station was quiet as most people were not aware that free services were offered. In Nakhon Ratchasima, free train rides confused people as trains that offered free services were not clearly marked.
There's even talk of the airport fees being halved:
Bangkok Post Aug. 2, 2008The fees have been halved at Sakon Nakhon, Khon Kaen, Trang, Nakhon Phanom, Nan, Phitsanulok, Phrae, Mae Sot, Mae Hong Son, Lampang, Loei, Surat Thani, Udon Thani, Ubon Ratchathani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Krabi, Chumphon, Tak, Nakhon Ratchasima, Buri Ram, Phetchabun, Roi Et and Ranong airports.
I didn't know Korat Airport was in operation at all. People write a lot of confusing stuff about that on the other forums.