10/27/2021, 14.51
THAILAND
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Bangkok’s historic Hua Lampong railway station to shut down

by Steve Suwannarat

Built in the Neo-Renaissance style in the early 20th century, the station served the Eastern & Oriental Express. By the end of the year, it will be shuttered, replaced by new and larger Bang Sue station. Those who earned a living from small formal and informal activities under and near its vaulted iron roof are now worried.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – The hectic life in Hua Lampong station, Bangkok’s main railway station, is coming to end.

Its great glass windows saw important moments of history, not only of transport, but also of local and foreign travellers in the Land of Smiles. By the end of the year, the building will be empty.

Built between 1910 and 1916 under King Rama VI, the station was meant to raise Bangkok to the level of other Asian capitals and contribute to the country’s development and modernisation.

Thailand’s railway network will have a new hub in Bang Sue, an outlying district of the capital, next to existing bus terminals with connections to Thailand’s northern and eastern regions.

The inauguration of the huge modern structure, the Bang Sue Grand Station, was postponed for a year due to the pandemic. Currently, it is used as a vaccination centre.

With 23 platforms, covering almost 275,00 square metres, it is ready to serve more travellers than the 37 million passengers who officially transited through Hua Lampong in 2019, before COVID-19 brought transport to a halt.

After more than a century, the old station will be repurposed. During its heyday, it saw all kinds of trains come and go from its 14 tracks, from the luxurious Eastern & Oriental Express to modest trains trudging along an obsolete network.

Thailand’s railway system is burdened by serious issues, ranging from insufficient funding and an apathetic and self-referential management to narrow-gauge tracks that allow connections with Malaysian railways (with Singapore as the final destination) but complicates access to Laotian railways (and China’s).

Hua Lampong is slated to be turned into a railway museum, enhancing its Neo-Renaissance style, the brainchild of Italian architect Mario Tamagno (1877-1941), who was tasked with modernising with genius and practicality what was then known as the Kingdom of Siam and boost the prestige of its monarchy.

For now, the hundreds of people and businesses who made a living from the various formal and informal activities in and near the old station are left without prospects.

Likewise, the scores of Bangkok homeless people who used to shelter at the station will also be left without a safe haven and essential services.

Photos: KarlDubost/Wikicommons

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