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SRT: Mahachai Line + Buses of Wong Wian Yai during peak

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Age: 39
Joined: 07 Dec 2008
Posts: 40
Location: Mahachai City

PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2012 5:43 am    Post subject: SRT: Mahachai Line + Buses of Wong Wian Yai during peak Reply with quote

One day in June 2010 I photographed the conditions and traffic volumes found during the morning peak on the Mahachai line and around Wong Wian Yai area. In 2009 and 2010 the Mahachai line and the buses at Wong Wian Yai formed part of my daily commute. This commute consisted of a motorbike taxi or Truck bus, SRT Mahachai line train and a metro bus. The door to door commute took an average of 90 minutes one way. This appears to be rather long for a 12 km long trip but when compared to a direct bus commute it was about 45 minutes faster to cover the same distance.

A little background on the Mahachai line:

The Mahachai line is 31.22 km long and runs from the fishing and industrial city of Mahachai to Wong Wian Yai a busy inner city suburb of Bangkok. The Mahachai line opened in 1905 as a private railway owned and operated by Tachin Railway Company. In 1907 this company merged with the Maeklong Railway Company that owned the Maeklong railway. Then in 1946 the line was purchased by SRT and became part of the government railway system although physically cut off from the rest of the SRT system.

When the line opened in the early 1900s it was a steam hauled rural commuter railway that connected the various tiny fishing and farming communities of Thonburi and Mahachai during this era the railway provided the only connection for these areas to the outside world other than by boat. By the 1920s the inner Thonburi section of the Mahachai line was electrified therefore allowing a higher frequency tram like commuter service to the rapidly growing Thonburi communities. Then in the late 1950s the entire line was converted to diesel rail car operation. Then in 1961 the section between Khlong San and Wong Wian Yai was removed to expand the road along side it.

Since the 1960s very little has changed on the Mahachai line despite the extremely rapid growth of the areas along the line. Today the line operates in a high density urban area covering about 60 % of its length. The line today has a passenger catchment of over 1.5 million people. However the line still operates at a rural commuter service level and the resulting modern demand on the line has saturated every single peak service from the first train until 10am.

In 2009 with the opening of the BTS station about 500 meters from Wong Wian Yai SRT station the demand for the line then sky rocketed resulting in dangerous overcrowding over more than half of the line. Often people are forced to find other much slower transport due to the overcrowding. Typically this is a line where you don't wait for the train to fully stop before trying to board it otherwise you might not be able to board at all.

Most of these issues are created by a lack of infrastructure investment over the last 50 years. The line currently is a low speed single track railway with very short passing loops at only a handful of stations. Between Rang Pho station and Wong Wian Yai there are only two passing loops one at Wat Sing and another 3 car long loop at Khlong Ton Sai. This section has the highest passenger numbers and has the least infrastructure flexibility. This limitation has a huge impact on the ability to increase services on the line at peak periods. The minimum headway between trains is every 25 minutes due to track constrains throughout the Mahachai line.

There are a couple of possible solutions to the issues of overcrowding and the lack of extra services on the Mahachai line. These are subject to obtaining increased funding for upgrades.

Option 1.

Install new 7 car long passing loops at every station on the line including two platform tracks at Wong Wian Yai station. Rebuild the entire trackbed and raise the track level to reduce flooding. New island platform stations at all current Mahachai line stations with more platform shelters and better lighting. Purchase at least 14 new 7 car DMU sets made up of 5 non aircon carriages and 2 air conditioned carriages. This should allow for a faster service operating at least every 10 minutes at peak with double the passenger capacity per train.

Option 2.

Convert the entire Mahachai line into a heavy rail metro. This would involve building a new underground section from Wong Wian Yai to Chomthong then rising to the surface at Ekkachai road and running via a brand new elevated BTS style track all the way along Ekkachai road and terminating at a brand new station near the Tachin River in Mahachai. This would allow for far higher frequency of trains up to every 90 seconds. Plus provide better coverage of the surrounding areas as the line would be more visible and operating where the majority of its users are located. Also major park and ride stations could be set up west of Kanchanaphisek Road to bring some private car users to the line. This would be the most expensive option but would serve the residents along the line far better.

In recent years vague plans have been put forward that involve the upgrade of the Mahachai line into a narrow gauge metro line as part of the Red line project in northern Bangkok. But no formal plans have ever been put forward to ease the pressure on the Mahachai line. There is no solution on the horizon for the Mahachai line as yet.

A little Background on the Buses of Wong Wian Yai:

The area around Wong Wian Yai is very rich in high frequency metro bus services operated both by the BMTA and private companies. Most of these routes provide direct services that cross the Chao Phaya River into central Bangkok or terminate at riverside piers. The majority of these routes operate along two corridors that converge at the traffic circle at Wong Wian Yai before they travel across the river into Bangkok.

Combined these two corridors carry around 50000 people per hour through Wong Wian Yai all of them by bus. The result is almost every bus is crammed full with people by the time they reach Wong Wian Yai despite the fact there can be buses arriving every 5 seconds during peak periods. On the approach to the traffic circle at Wong Wian Yai lines of packed buses can stretch back as far as you can see through the heavy traffic. These bus corridors have long since reached their physical maximum passenger throughput limit and offer no further room for growth in demand. Despite the extremely high frequency none of these corridors have enforced bus lanes and must fight though the heavy traffic.

In the future both bus corridors will be improved with the construction of two heavy rail metros known as the Blue and Purple lines. However at this stage only the 30000 people per hour Phet Kasem Road (Bang Khae) bus corridor will be converted to a heavy rail metro that is now under construction and is due to open in 2016 this will speed up travel along this corridor by between 45 and 90 minutes and provide desperately needed extra mass transport capacity.

12. This is an image of NKF DMU number 1207 taken as it rounds the curve on approach to Talat Phlu station on a service to Wong Wian Yai.

15. This is a shot of NKF DMU number 1212 taken as it was departing from Talat Phlu station on a service to Mahachai. On the bridge is a Route 147 bus heading towards Dao Khanong.

17. This is another image of NKF DMU number 1214 taken as it pulled into Talat Phlu station on a very busy service to Wong Wian Yai. Note how people have to stand in the driver cabin.

19. This is a shot of the overcrowded interior of an inbound morning peak service to Wong Wian Yai. Often during peak periods the doors are left open to help get an extra few people on board.

21. This is a shot of NKF DMU number 1214 taken as the crowds leave the train at Wong Wian Yai station. Passengers exit from both sides of the train at Wong Wian Yai so as to speed up unloading of the trains.

28. This is an image of a long line of buses on Phet Kasem road at Wong Wian Yai. There is no bus lane on this road and the buses have to struggle along in the heavy traffic that can stretch back over 10km.

52. This is an image of a Route 111: Talat Phlu ? Bukkhalo (loop service) bus. Taken as it rounds the traffic circle at Wong Wian Yai. Bus type: Hino AK176.

59. This is an image of a Route 21A: Thung Khru Flat ? Pahurat bus and others. Taken as it approached Wong Wian Yai on Somdet Phrachao Taksin road. Bus type: Hino AK176.

If you would like to see more images and video of the Mahachai line and the buses of Wong Wian Yai during the morning peak please visit:


I hope you find the pictures and vehicles shown to be of interest if you view this please post some comments and feelings about the pictures.
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