The opening of the BTS Skytrain in December provided Bangkok commuters with a chance to use feeder bus services on 13 routes.
Bangkok Metropolitan Transportation Authority (BMTA), the regional transport agency, granted a feeder bus concession to Bangkok Transit System Corp. (BTSC), developer of the Skytrain project. BTSC, through its subsidiary, Bangkok Transit Feeder Co. (BTFC), opened feeder bus services in mid-January, a delay from its initial December 5 start. BTFC plans to introduce 175 air-conditioned buses with fares ranging between 8-18 baht to feed passengers to the Skytrain stations.
The feeder bus concession has caused a duplication of existing BMTA routes for 135 buses, however. Consumer groups opposed the new concession, claiming it would cause some impact on the poor.
BMTA has also already begun redirecting its bus network to help address the duplication with the new concession and also prepare to feed the future subway and Hopewell projects, which should be finished in the next few years.
Meanwhile, the Thai cabinet has given a working group comprising Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA), the capital region’s governing body, BMTA, and relevant agencies a three-month timetable to study the transfer of BMTA and present a conclusion to the cabinet again in early 2000.
The working group has been initially charged with the objective of privatizing the daily administration of the city bus agency. Following that task, the entire agency must be privatized as a public company. The transfer will change the status of BMTA from a state enterprise to a publicly held company or a cooperative. By law, BMA itself is not allowed to run other state enterprises.
The transfer should result in overhauling and streamlining of the agency, which now has 20,000 staff. BMTA's financial structure must also be revised before the transfer.
Protests from BMTA staff over the privatization remain high, but they are not as strong as in 1998, reported the working group. However, employees remain concerned about keeping their jobs under a privatization scheme.