Rail News


October 28 , 2021

End of the line looms for hawkers, rough sleepers at Bangkok station

Channel News Asia 
27 October 2021 (Bangkok, Thailand)

An uncertain fate awaits the hawkers, drivers and rough sleepers who have made a second home under the ornate arched ceiling of Bangkok's century-old central railway station.

The elegant Italianate columns and stained glass windows of the station at Hua Lamphong will soon echo no more to the constant rattle of trains arriving and departing.

The vast majority of services will move to a new rail hub on the capital's northern outskirts later this year, with plans for eventual fast services to China through neighbouring Laos.

The coronavirus pandemic has already bought a year's reprieve for the current station, near the city's Chinatown district - its replacement is almost finished but currently being used as a vaccination centre.

But movement restrictions and a lack of foreign visitors have crippled the kingdom's tourism-dependent economy and the dozens of people eking out a living are already feeling the pinch.

"We have to be very frugal - I'm using my savings to cover living expenses," said Boonkerd Khampakdi, who has sold food to hungry travellers at the station for the past 20 years.

The 51-year-old told AFP she now makes only 1,000 baht (US$30) per day, a tenth of what she made before the pandemic and barely enough to cover monthly rent for her stall.

Nearby, tuk-tuk driver Wutthisak Inthawat waits patiently for what few potential fares pass through the station's entrance.

He said it had been increasingly difficult to cover the hire fees for his vehicle, pay rent and feed his family.

"I have two young daughters - a three- and nine-year-old," said Wutthisak, 34. "If I can't manage to pay off my debts I will have to return to my home province."


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