BANGKOK: Thailand ushered in a new age of train travel on Thursday (Jan 19) as Southeast Asia’s biggest railway station officially began operations. The government says the huge, modern development on the edge of central Bangkok will bolster the country’s position as a regional hub and boost its economy.
It is officially called Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal, a name bestowed by the king. But to most people it’s more likely to be known simply as Bang Sue Grand Station, after the part of Bangkok it’s in.
The cost of the new terminal, including the station, elevated train tracks and a connecting station for Bangkok’s mass transit system, is around US$1 billion, according to Takun Indarachome, director of traffic operations for the State Railway of Thailand.
Almost all of Thailand’s long-distance domestic and international rail services will pass through the new terminal, on which work began 10 years ago. The first train out of the new station was bound for Sungai Kolok, on Thailand’s southern border with Malaysia.
Many Thais, however, are lamenting the shunting aside of the previous terminal, Hua Lamphong Station on the edge of Bangkok’s Chinatown in the middle of the capital. The classic station, with its high-ceilinged waiting room, has hosted generations of travellers, ranging from rural workers looking for jobs in the city to backpacking tourists headed south to chill at seaside resorts.