Third-class train cars not up to standard, says Thai transport minister

The latest criticism from Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt will hardly surprise commuters who regularly use standard state rail services.

After a "secret" eight-hour train ride to Surin recently on his own, Chadchart wrote on his Facebook page yesterday that toilets on the lowest-class train carriages were dirty and lacked running tap water.

The minister, who oversees the State Railway of Thailand, said Train 135, a third-class route that is the lowest, also saw a 30-minute delay, and the carriage was not in good condition.

His trip was not disclosed to others, he said, as he wanted to find out what the SRT service was like after the agency asked to raise the fees for third-class train rides by 10 per cent.

Chadchart said he talked to train drivers and SRT police about many problems they faced: old locomotives, worn-out or used train parts, lack of qualified personnel, and disproportional assignments for SRT staff.

"The information learned will be used to improve the SRT and other public transport services drastically," he said on his FB page.

A specific problem on the route to Surin was tree branches that regularly hit passengers' faces or arms, he said. From querying the SRT staff, he was told that no contractors were interested in bidding for a project to trim the branches along the rail line because the return was too low for them. Chadchart said he would readjust the payment and make it a long-term project.

The minister recently took a bus trip to work in Bangkok, with the same purpose of checking the quality of service for commuters, but had to get off and jump on to a motorcycle taxi because of long delays on the route he had to take.

He also conducted a survey to rate the quality of city bus routes, which saw bus numbers 8, 44, and 1 named as the worst routes, ahead of numbers 16, and 92, which ranked fourth-worst, and numbers 75 and 122, which were fifth-worst.