Commuters board a No.64 bus. The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) is so deeply in debt that fare hikes up to 30% seem inevitable in 2018. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)

Bus fares could jump 2 baht, or 30% on average, this year to help the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) cover its longstanding debts, the authority’s president Nuttachat Charuchinda said Tuesday.

Mr Nuttachat said the price hike will be pitched on Friday at a State Enterprise Policy Office (Sepo) meeting. If Sepo approves the plan it will likely be submitted to the cabinet for approval, he added.

This would give the BMTA enough time to launch the higher fares this year.

Mr Nuttachat said the increased fares would apply to all buses operated by the BMTA.

“The BMTA’s non-air-conditioned buses charge upwards of 6 baht and 50 satang per ticket. But they are in no way inferior to [the same class of] buses operated by private companies, where fares start at 8 baht and 50 satang,” he said.

“If we can adjust the fares to match the capital investment, we can solve the BMTA’s low liquidity problem within three to five years.”

The BMTA is now over 100 billion baht in debt, according to reports from the Transport Ministry.

Mr Nuttachat said the BMTA’s air-conditioned buses, which are easily recognisable by their yellow-orange paintwork, could see fares jump from 11-23 baht to 13-25 baht.

The BMTA rekindled its higher fare plan after newly appointed Deputy Transport Minister Pailin Chuchottaworn recently instructed the agency, along with the State Railway of Thailand and Thai Airways, to find ways to honour their debts.

Mr Nuttachat said the agency has been working to improve the quality of its services, starting with a plan to procure 489 natural gas buses for the capital.

“Once we have obtained all [of these], that would be a logical time to increase the fares because there will have been a visible increase in quality,” he said.

Previous cost-cutting measures included the BMTA’s plan to lay off 2,000 conductors by 2019 after e-ticket machines have been successfully installed.

The last fare hike was in 2015, when private companies registered with the BMTA raised their fares by 1 baht. These did not apply to buses directly operated by the BMTA, however.

The BMTA is running at a loss as initial operating costs for non-aircon buses are around 15 baht per passenger, according to Veerapong Vongvan, president of the BMTA State Enterprise Workers Union.

Its air-conditioned buses cost 20 baht per passenger, he added.

Mr Veerapong said the union will meet on Friday to prepare documents for the Transport Ministry showing its support for the fare hike.

It will be introduced progressively to ease the the impact on low-income earners, he said.

Many of these are now able to use e-welfare cards to deduct the price of fares on 800 BMTA buses.

One commuter, who identified himself as Ake, said the fare increase is no guarantee of better services.

“If we could see new vehicles in service, then that’s one thing,” he said.

“But when you see buses in a state of disrepair, with faulty GPS systems, it’s hard to see how we benefit. The BMTA should clarify where the new revenue will go.”

News Reporter

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