How to fix Bangkok’s Makkasan Station

News #220: Penang LRT will connect island to mainland, Subic-Clark-Manila-Batangas railway, 7 MRT stations on Singapore's TEL open, Thailand's double-track rail project continues, Vietnam high-speed railway update

The Future Southeast Asia Newsletter features transport and urban development news in Southeast Asia, edited by James Clark.

Hello from Chiang Mai. I’m here for another month, and I am planning where to go for the next few months. I will be going back to Vietnam, and I’m waiting to find out the opening date of the Bangkok-Vientiane train service.

I was considering getting the Laos-China Railway to Kunming, but it was just announced that Australians (that’s me) will be able to travel to China visa-free. I will wait until that is official before making a plan.

This week’s article is about Makkasan Station in Bangkok. This is a big station that was built for the Airport Rail Link, but a series of bad decisions have led to most of the station being unused. The station and the tracks of the airport railway are now hindering future railway development in this corridor. It’s a planning mess, so my article tries to come up with some solutions.

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Makkasan Station is a station on the Airport Rail Link (ARL) connecting central Bangkok to Suvarnabhumi Airport. It’s a grand station from the outside, but on the inside, it’s a ghost town.

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News

🇰🇭 Cambodia

“Lost in between the colonisation of public space by cars, and the drive to develop Cambodia’s capital for commercial interests, is the possibility for urban renewal that draws on citizens’ own improvisational efforts to humanise urban space.”

This is in Sampov Poun (map), which is opposite a corner of Vietnam I’ve not been to. Like every other Cambodian border town, there are casinos.

🇮🇩 Indonesia

🇱🇦 Laos

🇲🇾 Malaysia

 🇵🇭 Philippines

This is being planned as an urban transit system, which some Latin American cities are doing (such as Medellin). Cable cars in Southeast Asia are mainly for leisure (here is the list).

🇸🇬 Singapore

🇹🇭 Thailand

“The 678-kilometre routes were part of a total of seven double-track railway megaprojects. They include the 168.2km Chumporn-Surat Thani route, costing 30.4 billion baht; the 321km Surat Thani-Songkhla route (66.2 billion baht); and the 189km Denchai-Chiang Mai route.”

"Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is vowing to push for a high-speed railway project linking three main airports to ensure the success of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and he expects good news to revive the long-delayed railway project next month."

• I found an official website for the Thai–Chinese High-speed Railway: highspeedrail-thai-china.com

The plan includes the upgrading of Narathiwat airport.

🇻🇳 Vietnam

“Work on a 1,500-kilometer high-speed rail link between the northern and southern regions will start in 2026 or 2027, Minister of Transport Nguyen Van Thang has said.”

• Stuart from the Couchfish Newsletter wrapped up a 4-part series on his visit to Phu Quoc, reporting on the massive overdevelopment that has taken over the island.

Technically it’s years behind schedule, but they are working with a revised completion date. There is still no mention of an airport rail link.

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