Airport Rail Link Check-in System Set to Launch on January 4, 2010

(MCOT) BANGKOK, Dec 19 - Thailand's Suvarnabhumi Airport's Airport Link will open and operate its check-in service for the first time on Jan 4, while passenger fares will be raised as it rises to full service after a four-month introductory operation period, according to Permanent Secretary for Transport Supoj Saplom.

Mr Supoj, in his capacity as board chairman of the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), made his remarks after inspecting the readiness of the new check-in service and baggage handling systems at the City Air Terminal also known as Makkasan Station.

Mr Supoj said the initial three airlines which will begin check-in services at Makkasan Station on Jan 4 are THAI, Bangkok Airways and Lufthansa.

More airlines wanting to operate check-in service at the City Terminal can contact SRT to proceed with their request, Mr Supoj said.

The 28km rail link connects Suvarnabhumi Airport on the eastern approaches of the capital and the City Air Terminal in Bangkok's Makkasan area, shortening travel times for inbound and outbound air travellers as well as easing arrivals and departures compared to existing airport transport.

After long delays in construction and several test runs, the Airport Link began its commercial services in August 23 with special discount fares offered until the end of this year, but the passengers are unable to check in their baggage yet as the check-in system is still incomplete.

As the Airport Link service will fully operate its services after the New Year, the SRT chairman stated Sunday, the fare will be increased.

He said the City Line, which now costs Bt15 per trip, will be adjusted to between Bt15-45, depending on distance.

City Line, departing from Phaya Thai Station, takes 30 minutes to reach the airport as it makes eight stops across the capital to take passengers.

For the Express Line which provides a 15-minute non-stop journey between Makkasan and the airport with the promotional fare set at Bt100, Mr Supoj said the fare will be raised to Bt150 per trip.

The new passenger fare structure for the two lines will take effect on Jan 4, said Mr Supoj.

The SRT board chairman conceded that the number passengers may drop with the fare rise, but insisted the Airport Link will remain the most convenient and economic way of transportation to the country's main airport.

Mr Supoj explained that the rising fares will help the Airport Link to be less dependent on governmental financial support and reduce the company's debt.

He said that currently 40,000 persons commute by Suvarnabhumi Airport City Line daily, while 800-900 use the Express Line.

The SRT will also build walkways connecting the Airport Link's Makkasan Station to the MRT underground's Phetchaburi Station, while additional escalators will be provided to facilitate passengers carrying baggage at three stations including Phaya Thai, Ratchaprarop and Ramkhamheang.

All are expected to be complete at the beginning of next year, the SRT chairman pledged.

Regarding the check-in process at Makkasan Station, Mr Supoj said passenger luggage is required to pass security processes there before proceeding to check-in for boarding cards.

"Their baggage will be transferred directly to Suvarnabhumi Airport and they don't need to check-in again or gather [their belongings] once arriving at the airport", said Mr Supoj.

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