Passengers left stranded in Chumphon yesterday following an abrupt suspension of train services threatened to sue the State Railway of Thailand for compensation.
Three of them filed complaints at Lae Mae Police Station after more than 2,000 of them, travelling on Train 167, were left at Lae Mae train station from 3am until 9am, before chartered buses took them further to their destination.
But during the six-hour wait they had no assistance or service from local railway workers.
The three said they needed police reports to pursue claims for damages from SRT for the delay. The union of the local SRT operation in Chumphon said later that the suspension of service was needed because a safety system called Vigilance installed on many locomotives did not work.
Union leader Issara Kerdsodsri accused the SRT management of not caring about passengers, and not heeding requests made two years ago by local railway workers for the Vigilance system and additional equipment.
At the Hat Yai railway junction in Songkhla, where the “work suspension” began, many passengers on Train 171 from Bangkok to Narathiwat had to carry their heavy luggage for a long distance to catch another train to continue their journey to the deep South. There was no porter service available to help them because support staff had also “suspended” their service.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the internal conflicts of the SRT should not be allowed to inconvenience commuters and interrupt railway service.
On his weekly morning television address, Abhisit said he wondered why railway workers were permitted to take administrative leave at the same time.
“The public is calling for reform of the SRT even under normal circumstances. So don’t do anything that will be even more detrimental to your organisation. The government is looking into an overall plan regarding the SRT. A revised report will be submitted to the Cabinet in a few weeks. There is a need for a drastic overhaul [of the SRT],” he said.
The SRT labour unions’ call for a replacement for SRT governor Yutthana Tabjaroen needed to be taken into consideration, and if there was cause, other measures should be adopted instead of such strikes, he said.
Quoting Transport Minister Sophon Saram, Abhisit said the SRT would now address the delays and disruptions of freight trains, while passenger trains were top priority to minimise the effects of the labour action.
Sawit Kaewwan, head of the confederation of SRT labour unions, called on the ministry and the SRT to jointly solve problems regarding the safety systems of locomotives.
Up to 90 per cent of all 196 locomotives were unfit for use due to inadequate maintenance and lack of spare parts and equipment, he said.
“In some locomotives, whose windshield wipers are not in use, engineers have to improvise by making makeshift wipers operated by hand,” he added.
In Trang, two trains were suspended for the first time. Chartered buses were provided for passengers wishing to transfer. Those who bought tickets for trains that have been suspended could get full refunds.
For more information, contact SRT’s hotline at 1690 round the clock.
The SRT in the afternoon announced an indefinite suspension of seven southbound passenger trains because of the ongoing absenteeism of staff.
The suspended services were: Bangkok-Sungai Kolok rapid train No 171; Bangkok-Butterworth express train No 35; Bangkok-Sungai Kolok express train No 37; Bangkok-Yala rapid train No 169; Bangkok-Nakhon Si Thammarat rapid train No 173; Bangkok-Kantang rapid train No 167; and Bangkok-Yala express train No 41.
Remaining in service were Bangkok-Trang express train No 83 leaving at 5.05pm; Bangkok-Nakhon Si Thammarat express train No 85 departing at 7.30pm; and Bangkok-Surat Thani express train No 39 leaving at 10.50pm.
The SRT did not say when train services would be restored.