Posted by: loomisisc | January 12, 2011

Bangkok Transformed by Rail

Here’s a letter from recently returned traveler to Bangkok, Tim Deegan, who found the city transformed by rail.

photo credit: Tim Deegan

Recently returning from a business trip to Bangkok, this was the first time I had visited the “City of Angels” since 1995- just before construction began on its now famous Sky Train. This booming metropolis is a testament to the return on investment derived from a much needed train system. A place considered by many to have the worst traffic congestion in the world, old Bangkok was mired in pollution and paralysis. A short journey of a few miles could take hours of expensive engine idling and loss of productivity. Professionals commuting to the city would often awake at 3AM to place their still-sleeping children in the car and begin the daily commute. Family breakfast was served in-transit to arrive at the office by 9AM. At the end of the day, families were forced to again dine in the car while the kids would do their homework only to arrive home about 9PM, just in time for bed.

Bangkok’s government and its citizens knew something had to be done, fully understanding that necessary construction was going to make the present traffic situation even worse- but only for a while. This was a long-term investment in their economic future and quality of life as well as that of their children for generations to come. Not letting short-term barriers such as inevitable economic downturns get in the way, the city continues to invest in a vast elevated rail system that connects countless new developments. An entire middle-class has emerged within a rail platform environment reminiscent of such global economic leaders such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

photo credit: Tim Deegan

Traversing this complex city is now much more clean and effortless as its increasingly multicultural citizenry combines train, bus, auto and even the centuries-old river taxi system to achieve an optimum blend of comfort and efficiency – both in terms of time and usage of natural resources. Greatly reduced is the need for a dated network of iconic yet loud and filthy “tuk tuks” ¬†for which Bangkok was once known. In its place is a much more productive & satisfied populace enjoying an enhanced quality of life and clearer skies.

Bangkok is truly a testament to the fact that it is never too late to do the right thing, that biting the bullet and sacrificing now for the long-term is the right thing to do. And that if you think an education is expensive, try ignorance. Most nightmares end once you wake up.

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