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View Full Version : Bangkok Transport Struggles on Despite with Floods



Kanok Karn
15th November 2011, 19:58
Bangkok looks to have escaped the worst of the flooding that has hit other parts of Thailand. The city remains on high alert with both the MRT and BTS overhead railway important considerations in the event of any future evacuation.

For the past 2 weeks, Frank Barthel has virtually been living in his Bangkok office, sleeping on a rolled-out mattress beside his desk.

The civil engineer works for German multinational Siemens AG and is responsible for ensuring that the Sky Train system built by his company continues to operate even during the disastrous floods currently engulfing the country.

The floodwaters are a threat to the countryís entire public transport system and Barthel wants to be ready to deal immediately with any emergency to hit his depot.

A new flood wave is expected to make its way here from the north next week. If the large sandbag defensive wall built five kilometers to the north doesnít hold, then the water levels here could rise by a meter.

Any substantial increase in the amount of floodwater would make the situation critical at the electrical substation, where the power supply is distributed to the train network.

The substation is located at the depot beside the BTS terminus station Mo Chit in north Bangkok, where Siemens maintains the trains.

Itís already affected by the flood, with the car park, for example, lying under 30 centimeters of water. The entrance to the electricity substation has been closed off with sandbags that reach chest height while the walls around the facility have also been strengthened with extra sandbags.

In case the flood defenses do fail, thereís a plastic boat complete with paddles parked on what is currently dry ground. "If the city center is underwater, then this will be perhaps the only remaining functioning mode of transport," says Barthel.

The Sky Train has been in operation in Bangkok since 1999 and runs between 12 and 30 meters above the streets of Bangkok. It is operated by the Thai company BTSC while Siemens is responsible for the trains and the entire rail system.

Around 540,000 of the cityís population of 12 million use the Sky Train each day. The systemís two lines run a total length of 30 kilometers and are serviced by 35 trains.

Water pumps are already keeping the waste water pipes free of any obstruction, and access roads are already flooded, but still passable by workers in their small vans.

No one knows when or even if the flood wave from the north will arrive. The people of Bangkok have been complaining bitterly at the poor and often chaotic information being given by the authorities.

Rumours abound that dams in central Thailand will have to be opened once again in order to relieve some of the water pressure that has built up but none of this has been confirmed officially.

Even companies living in fear of a new flood wave are desperately seeking reliable information about the current situation.

Unlike the situation with the Sky Train, the MRT train systemís substation is not in danger of flooding as it located three meters above ground.

Four of the 20 stations are situated on flooded streets. When the waters reach the second step of a station entrance, then the alarm is raised and if the level rises any further then the entrance is barricaded shut.

Everything is in place to try and ensure both the Sky Train and the MRT stay open. There is enough food and drinking water stockpiled at both depots to last 20 people up to weeks. There are also large dormitories where workers whose homes are flooded can sleep.