The largest railway station in Southeast Asia
An Olympic bid for the new Indonesian capital, Luang Prabang railway station update, Singapore's Cross Island Line MRT, and more construction and transport news in Southeast Asia.
Hello from Ho Chi Minh City, where we are in hard lockdown mode for two weeks. In fact, most of Southeast Asia is in a dire state this month, with Indonesia now the Covid epicentre of Asia. Not to turn this into a current affairs newsletter, but this preamble is somewhat related to this week’s article.
I have a loose publishing calendar that keeps me on track for what to publish. This week I had scheduled a story on Bang Sue Grand Station in Bangkok, which was supposed to open this month. Even if it’s not operating yet, it’s now the largest railway station in Southeast Asia.
The station is now planning to open in November, and this cavernous space is currently being used as a vaccination centre. The latest Covid wave in Thailand is so bad that they also transformed the new terminal at Suvarnabhumi into a field hospital.
I visited the Bang Sue construction site in 2019 (that’s where my current profile photo comes from), and last year I was half hoping that I could be there on the opening day. That looks unlikely now.
[Bang Sue Grand Station under construction in 2019.]
Bang Sue will be replacing Hua Lamphong as the main station of Bangkok. Originally Hua Lamphong was going to close permanently and turned into a museum. It will be served by the SRT Dark Red line, but that is years away from being operational.
I’m interested to see what will happen to the area around Bang Sue. There are plans to turn it into a new central business district (images of which are in the article), but so far they haven’t found an interested developer. Bang Sue could end up becoming like Makkasan Station, which even before the pandemic was almost empty.
Whether the station becomes a vibrant hub like Tokyo Station (supposedly what it is modeled after) or ghostly like Makassan won’t be known for a few years after the pandemic is over. Either way, I’m excited about the prospect of one day being able to get a high-speed train from Bangkok to Luang Prabang.
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