Airport Link vows mileage crackdown

The Airport Rail Link operator has pledged to remove any trains that have reached maximum mileage to ensure passenger safety, making disruptions likely over the coming months. 

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Concerns have been raised over the four-year-old train service after SRT Electrified Train Co, which runs the service, admitted that several out of the nine trains have travelled more than 1.2 million kilometres.

The trains are required to undergo major maintenance after running almost 1.32 million kilometres, but the overhaul programme, originally scheduled for April this year, has been delayed to next year.

Pakorn Tangjetsakao, a member of the SRT Electrified Train Co's board, said the issue of passenger safety is the company's utmost concern.

The board has assigned Sitthipong Promla, deputy governor of the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), to head a working panel to take charge of repairs and maintenance work to ensure safety until the overhaul programme is ready.

The 28km Airport Rail Link, joining Phaya Thai in inner-Bangkok with Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan, is owned by the SRT, but the SRT Electrified Train Co runs the service. An estimated 36,000-38,000 passengers use the Airport Rail Link each day.

Mr Pakorn promised that trains that have reached their maximum mileage without being serviced will be suspended. That means some trains could be pulled from service, raising the prospect of disruptions, amid reports some railways staff are threatening not to work on trains they deem unsafe.

"The board is concerned about passenger safety. Necessary maintenance will be carried out to ensure safety. But we promise that the trains that reach the maximum mileage and have not undergone the overhaul will be removed from the fleet," said Mr Pakorn.

The overhaul programme, slated to cost 386 million baht, will not start until the second half of 2015. This is the result of a recent decision by the SRT board to select a contractor to carry out the programme via e-auction.

It would take about five months to draft the e-auction terms of reference, while importing spare parts and other items would take about eight months. The overhaul of the entire fleet would take about four months to complete.

Mr Pakorn said the working panel headed by Mr Sitthipong would look into problems causing the overhaul's delay.

Mr Sitthipong, who is in charge of the SRT's train maintenance division, insisted trains that have reached maximum mileage are not necessarily unsafe. 

He said all the trains will be inspected by SRT specialists and consultants and be serviced accordingly. The panel will look for ways to speed up the overhaul programme. The company's board has given parties concerned two weeks to study the problems.

A source at the SRT Electrified Train Co said yesterday operating staff have vowed not to continue train services if safety cannot be assured. The source said eight trains are now in service. The one with the least mileage — less than 10,000km — is set aside as a spare.

The board of SRT Electrified Train Co yesterday resolved to name former 2nd Army Region commander Thawatchai Samutsakorn as the board chairman, replacing Chamroon Tangpaisarnkit, a former transport deputy permanent secretary. The board also named Mr Pakorn as acting president of SRT Electrified Train Co.

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