Thai first monorail “MRT Yellow Line” launches – 30km connecting suburbs of Bangkok

Eastern Bangkok Monorail Company (EBM, Thailand) started the free fare trial runs from June 3, 2023 (Sat) on a part of section of the monorail “MRT Yellow Line” that has been developed in the eastern suburbs of Bangkok.

Alstom "Innovia 300" monorail undergoing trial operation on the MRT Yellow Line
Alstom “Innovia 300” monorail undergoing trial operation on the MRT Yellow Line (Tarmashiba/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Finally opened after many twists and turns

The Yellow Line project was officially formulated for the first time in 2000, but commercialization was considered difficult due to factors such as repeated revisions of the plan and the emergence of a military government due to a coup d’état.

It finally started in December 2016, when BSR, a joint venture of BTS Group, Sino Thai Engineering, and Ratchaburi Power Generation responded to the government’s public-private partnership (PPP) bidding and received the right to construct and operate the Yellow Line. In June 2017, BSR signed a contract with the Metropolitan Rapid Transit Authority (MRTA) for construction and vehicle procurement, established EBM to manage the operation, and made a system to proceed with the project.

The Yellow Line connects Bangkok’s eastern suburbs in a semi-circular fashion, starting at Lat Phrao Station (Bangkok), which connects with the MRT Blue Line, to Samrong Station (Samut Prakan Province), which is an interchange station with the BTS Sukhumvit Line. For a while, the heavy rail system was also considered, but since it is a secondary transportation that does not enter the central area, the monorail, which is a medium-capacity transportation system and can reduce construction costs, was adopted for the first time in Thailand.

Although construction began in March 2018, the completion was repeatedly postponed due to the stagnation of construction due to the COVID-19. Ultimately, after inspection by the MRTA, which welcomed an independent engineer, it was approved for test operation for the general public to ride.

(See the chart below for details such as the MRT Yellow Line trial operation and a railway network of the Bangkok metropolitan area including routes under development.)

[Chart] The MRT Yellow Line trial operation and a railway network of the Bangkok metropolitan area including routes under development

The test operation section is gradually expanded

From June 3, 2023 (Sat), the section of 13 stations south of Hua Mak Station, which connects with the Airport Rail Link (ARL) and the National Railway (SRT) Eastern Line, to Samrong Station was opened to the public. Service is limited to 9:00 to 20:00, and trains are set every 10 minutes regardless of the time of day. After the official opening, it will be possible to ride with the IC card “Rabbit Card” that can be used at the BTS Skytrain and shops in the city.

The expansion of the service section will be decided after MRTA discusses the current service situation. According to Thai broadcasting station BEC (Channel 3), it is considering that the trial operation from June 12 (Mon) will cover all 23 stations between Lat Phrao and Samrong, and the operating hours will be expanded from 6:00 to 21:00.

In addition, it is reported that Prime Minister Prayut will officially approve on June 19 (Mon) and commercial operation will start on the entire Yellow Line.

The rolling stocks for the Yellow Line are the “Innovia 300” manufactured in Anhui Province, China by a joint venture between Alstom (France), which acquired the transportation division of Bombardier (Canada), and CRRC Nanjing Puzhen, a Chinese vehicle manufacturer. It is a straddle-type monorail that runs over an elevated track, and achieved completely unmanned operation through communication with the train control system. Currently, it is a 4-car train, but it can be expanded to 7 cars depending on the transportation situation.