(1999-2009) BTS Skytrain and Bangkok City Fabric: History of the Bangkok’s Transport Development Plans

The Bangkok Mass Transit System, commonly known as the BTS Skytrain, is an important milestone in the transport development history of the City of Bangkok. It marks a change in the city development of Bangkok. To better understand its position in history, several major development plans of Bangkok will be visited.

The 1st National Economic and Social Development Plan (1962-1966) was implemented as the first step for Thailand to adapt international planning concepts to the kingdom. (Rujopakarn, 2006)  With great attentions to accelerate economic growth and development of fundamental infrastructure, there were not many thoughts on the land use planning throughout the 1st – 3rd development plans (1962-1976).  The first urban land use plan, the Litchfield Plan, was developed by a group of American consultants in 1960 was published for Bangkok in the year of 1990 (Sternstein, 1971). However, it was never officially approved that this very first land use plan for Bangkok only served as an informal working guideline.

The first ever comprehensive study on the transportation system of Bangkok was carried out by the German Agency for Technical Cooperation in 1971 (Kocks, 1975). The Bangkok Transportation Study consisted several major suggestions for the transport development of Bangkok including polycentric developments around the city and the construction of mass transit and roads under a public transport oriented policy that included the restriction of car ownership/use.

The 4th and 5th development plans focus on almost solely major road and expressway development within the Bangkok Metropolitan Region in order to fulfill the pressure within the existing built up areas. The 6th plan (1987-1991) promoted a better integration of physical planning and infrastructure investment measures in order to influence land uses and create a more orderly growth of the area. Intentions to provide bus ways, mass transit lines and some traffic management measures in the city center were raised  (Kaeokungwal, 1990). Despite the government spent a huge sum of money on the projects. Failure and delay in implementing many programs were noticed throughout the period.

The first Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) study can be dated back during the 4th Plan in 1979. Since then, there have been efforts to secure an MRT project. The “Lavalin Skytrain” was an unrealized early version to the current BTS Skytrain.  The agreement with Lavalin was terminated in 1992 due to political interference. Bangkok remains in a state of constant traffic congestion.

Stepping into the 7th National Plan(1992-1996), a major change was carried out that the infrastructure development was shared and heavily relied on the private sector with a giant investment of 210 billion baht(Rujopakarn, 2006). It marked the beginning of the mass transit era.

The BTS opportunity was being recognized by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration Governor Major Gen Chamlong in 1990 shortly after the Lavalin Plan was clear to be seized. At that time there was no formal project development process. It was enough that a government agency found a concessionaire and contracted a concession with him. No feasibility study was necessary (Allport et al., 2008) . The BMA government successfully found a private investor to proceed the project. Keeree Kanjanapas (黃創山), a Thai Entrepreneur, founded the Bangkok Transit Corporation (BTSC, 2016). The company successfully funded it and transform it from a feeder system to a full Mass Transit Project. The BTS Skytrain System was then officially opened on 5 December 1999 as the first mass rapid transit system in Bangkok.

Transport Investment in Bangkok Metropolitan Region, 1982-2001
Figure 1 Transport Investment in Bangkok Metropolitan Region, 1982-2001




Danny Unger, Building social capital in Thailand: fibers, finance, and infrastructure, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998)

Kocks, KG.FH. and Rhein-Ruhr-Ing.-Gmbh Consulting Engineers, Bangkok transportation study (BTS). Final Report, Vol. II, (Bangkok: September 1975)

Larry Sternstein, Planning the Developing Primate City: Bangkok 2000, (Australian National Universit, 1971)

Roger Allport, Richard Brown, Stephen Glaister and Tony Travers, Success and failure in urban transport infrastructure projects. (London: Imperial College London, 2008)

Wiroj Rujopakarn, BANGKOK ACCESSIBILITY UNDER THE 8th TRANSPORT AND LAND USE PLANS. the Proceedings of the Regional Symposium on Infrastructure Development in Civil Engineering (Tokyo: Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2006.)

Kaeokungwal, C. National urban development policy and financial strategies for infrastructure expansion in Thailand. Symposium on Urban Development and Transportation in Bangkok, (Bangkok, 1990)

“Company’s Profile” Bangkok Mass Transit System Public Company Limited (BTSC), accessed December 8 ,2016, http://www.bts.co.th/corporate/en/01-about-history.aspx

1 Comment on “(1999-2009) BTS Skytrain and Bangkok City Fabric: History of the Bangkok’s Transport Development Plans

  1. Bangkok is certainly not the first city to introduce mass transit railway systems. The connection with American and German (probably West Germany?) consultants is interesting, and seems to point towards the political stance of the country in light of the Cold War. Are there any accounts of other cities that the Bangkok gov’t looked into (or avoided)? Travels by government officials perhaps?

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