Seven fuel trains travelling from Nakhon Sawan province also suspended service, as did another three free shortrange commuter trains travelling from Nakhon Ratchasima to other northeastern provinces.
The labour union of the local operation in Hat Yai district, which announced the suspension, said all trains travelling to Hat Yai station would be inspected, and then be “stopped” from continuing their runs if they failed to pass standard maintenance checks.
Fourteen trains travelling to and from Hat Yai district in Songkhla province suspended service yesterday, with malfunctions of a safety system and poor conditions of a number of locomotives cited as the reasons.
Union leader Wirun Sakaekhum said his union’s act was not a strike, but merely a temporary suspension of service. “We are following a fresh regulation of the State Railways of Thailand, which was issued in the wake of a derailment on October 5. No locomotives in fully operational readiness are allowed to be used,” he said.
Wirun said out of 11 locomotives operated by the Hat Yai station, four were in “incomplete condition” while a safety system attached to the seven others needed repairs. The Vigilance system is a warning device that sends alerts to drivers who might be sleeping on the job, he explained.
“The Hat Yai labour union cannot tell now how much repair work will take place, and cannot say how long the suspension of service will continue, but all the work will be completed as soon as possible,” he added.
He said the Hat Yai union was pledged new equipment and budget for new locomotives and various repair work in an agreement in December 2002, but was never given anything. Members of the union and rail workers later gathered at the Hat Yai station in the afternoon and burned an effigy of SRT governor Yutthana Thabjaroen.
In Nakhon Ratchasima, train 419, which gives free rides following government policy, stopped service, forcing passengers to travel by buses or to wait for hours for the next train after they found out that the other two free trains were also delayed. Their suspension from service was then announced. Station manager Somsak Tianpholkrang said the local train union told him that the locomotives for the free trains were not “fully ready” for use.
A source with the Transport Ministry, which supervises SRT, said the suspension of train services was aimed at unseating SRT governor Yutthana. Yesterday’s work stoppage was the third strike in the past two years.