The MRT Blue Line, or officially the MRT Chaloem Ratchamongkhon Line, is the first fully-underground MRT line in Bangkok. With the many extensions in plan, the MRT Blue Line now heads overground, first from Tao Poon, and now the new extension through Chinatown and the Grand Palace up overground to Tha Phra. The opening of the MRT Blue Line Hua Lamphong – Tha Phra Extension on 29 July 2019 comes a day after the 67th birthday of His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn on 28 July 2019.
RailTravel Station was there on the first day of operations on the MRT Blue Line Hua Lamphong – Tha Phra Extension.
BL28 Hua Lamphong MRT Station
While not a new station, BL28 Hua Lamphong MRT Station marks the start of the new extension.
The banner of the new extensions placed outside of the station entrance.
A new route map style for the MRT Blue Line is already in place, ready to open for the new extensions with stickers placed over the actual colours.
The new extension trial today is between Hua Lamphong and Tha Phra. I guess the temporary stickers haven’t been removed yet as it is only a trial period, not for full operations yet.
A new and improved location map for the MRT Blue Line.
The location of BL28 Hua Lamphong MRT Station and Hua Lamphong Railway Station.
Down at the concourse, there is a dedicated manual counter selling 16 Baht tickets for the section between Hua Lamphong and the free travel zone.
Heading into the ticket gates with my ticket.
Tapping my chip on to the ticket gate.
BL28 Hua Lamphong MRT Station is decked out with dressed pillars as a preview to the new extension.
After the Happy Blue Line Tao Poon Extension where the MRT Blue Line first saw sunlight in regular service, it’s Happy Blue Line again to Tha Phra.
Trains are currently on split operation where trains are running on the existing line and the new extension separately.
Cross-platform transfer is necessary at BL28 Hua Lamphong MRT Station to access the MRT Blue Line Hua Lamphong – Tha Phra Extension. Trains to Tha Phra depart from Platform 1.
The current trial operating hours of the MRT Blue Line Hua Lamphong – Tha Phra Extension.
The incoming Siemens BLE Train on the MRT Blue Line Hua Lamphong – Tha Phra Extension.
Letting passengers off the train first. Unlike the existing line, there are no security check-throughs before the train boards new passengers.
The new dynamic route map on board the Siemens BLE Train, with a smaller screen as compared with the BTS counterpart.
To cope with increased capacity, more hand grips are installed on board in three rows.
The packed train towards Tha Phra.
The dynamic route map offers very clear information on the next station.
Heading towards BL29 Wat Mangkon MRT Station.
BL29 Wat Mangkon MRT Station
BL29 Wat Mangkon MRT Station is located under Yaowarat or Chinatown, making access to the popular tourist destination even easier now.
The stations’s pillars are decked out with Chinese patterns to blend with the Chinatown look.
The Siemens BLE Train departing from Wat Mangkon Station.
Heading up to the station concourse.
The concourse is decked out with Chinese art murals.
Lots of passengers taking photos with the murals.
*Note: I did not exit at all stations to explore the area as 1. I was interested in the Blue Line instead and 2. I had limited time to explore the line before it closed at 4pm.
Even the Nescafe advertisements around the station blend in with the Chinese theme.
The arrival times are not yet displayed on the new extension.
My next train overran the stopping position by about 2 meters.
Reversing back to the correct stopping point.
Looking down at the new MRT tunnels.
The usual crowded train on this free trial.
BL30 Sam Yot MRT Station
BL30 Sam Yot MRT Station is the future interchange with the MRT Purple Line, and a station that looks nicer on the outside than inside, but I didn’t have the time to exit the station.
The station’s design is reminiscent of the traditional three-door arch similar to buildings around the area.
The station is rather deep to accommodate the future MRT Purple Line tracks. Or perhaps tunnels and station boxes are already built in to minimise disruptions in future? I’m not sure.
Old photographs of the old tramway and other transport modes around the area are also placed on the pillars as part of the station art.
The arches on the pillars.
The station sign background also reflect the abstract design of the traditional doors.
BL31 Sanam Chai MRT Station
BL31 Sanam Chai MRT Station is a surprising station, with normal platform designs.
Even the escalator up to the concourse is also of a rather standard design.
However, once you ride the escalator up to the concourse, it’s a whole different world.
BL31 Sanam Chai MRT Station is undoubtedly the nicest MRT Blue Line station on the network architecturally, and potentially the nicest looking subway station in ASEAN. It is designed in the architectural style of the early Rattanakosin period, in line with the station’s historical location nearby to Wat Pho, the Grand Palace and Pak Khlong Talad (Flower Market).
Even the station walls and fake doors are reminiscent of those found around the Grand Palace.
Being in this station makes you feel like you are in the Grand Palace instead.
However, reality hits and it’s back down to the platforms.
Back at the island platform of BL31 Sanam Chai MRT Station.
The next train I boarded was dressed in the “Long Live the King” external and internal livery. How apt.
BL32 Itsaraphap MRT Station
BL32 Itsaraphap MRT Station is now across the Chao Phraya River from the modern side of Bangkok to the old city. The platform looks like a normal underground station with a motif on the pillar.
Heading up to the concourse.
The concourse looks like a normal metro station too.
The unique part of the station is actually at the ticket concourse where there are lighted golden swan motifs. This is to reflect the station’s location to the nearby Wat Hong Rattanaram Ratchaworawihan which has the word “swan” in its name.
The ticket concourse of BL32 Itsaraphap MRT Station.
A special counter is set up to issue free tokens for travel within the free zone. However, if you are travelling to the existing line, you can purchase your ticket from the ticket vending machines.
You can take a picture with the golden swan while you wait to buy your ticket from the ticket vending machines.
Staff are on hand to assist you with the ticket, as the new ticket vending machines have a new interface.
Heading down back to the platform, just in time for the screen to flash the Happy Blue Line music video with the architecture of BL32 Itsaraphap MRT Station.
Time to exit the tunnels.
Back in the crowded train.
After BL32 Itsaraphap MRT Station, the train heads out of the tunnel into the open happily.
BL01 Tha Phra MRT Station
A huge jump in the station number? Well yes, in a way.
BL01 Tha Phra MRT Station starts the number calculation as it is the starting point of the line, first heading north towards PP16 BL10 Tao Poon MRT Station. On the track that this train is currently on, it will only be an intermediate station towards BL38 Lak Song MRT Station once the MRT Blue Line is fully completed next year.
No security run-throughs at this station too, passengers may remain on board to bounce or immediately board the train.
The Siemens BLE Train train out in the open. The turnaround times are quite fast as only the eastbound Platform 2 is currently in use. The westbound platform towards BL38 Lak Song MRT Station and upper northbound platforms towards PP16 BL10 Tao Poon MRT Station are not yet in use.
BL01 Tha Phra MRT Station is decked out in “Long Live the King” advertisements.
The lower Platform 2 of BL01 Tha Phra MRT Station.
Looking out towards the west on to BL38 Lak Song MRT Station.
The transfer escalators to the upper northbound island platform towards PP16 BL10 Tao Poon MRT Station. Bangkok planned out their MRT Blue Line intersection so well, unlike some other Blue Line near me with an out of station interchange involving a traffic light crossing and 15-minute transfer allowance *cough*Rochor*cough*Jalan Besar*cough*.
Parts of Platform 2 on the eastern side still has some hoardings around them.
The concourse of BL01 Tha Phra MRT Station.
The 3 service routes from BL01 Tha Phra MRT Station.
From the overrun after the northbound Platforms 3 and 4, there is an access track forming a wye junction towards Lak Song for faster stock transfer to and from the new Kalapapruek Depot off BL35 Phetkasem 48 MRT Station.
The station location map of BL01 Tha Phra MRT Station.
The platform and exit information of BL01 Tha Phra MRT Station.
Some trainspotting is possible at BL01 Tha Phra MRT Station from the concourse with a zoom lens. Here’s a Siemens BLE Train train in “The Great Garland” livery.
A Siemens BLE Train train in “Long Live the King” livery.
A Siemens BLE Train train in the normal livery.
Looking north towards BL02 Charan 13 MRT Station and PP16 BL10 Tao Poon MRT Station. under these mega viaducts holding up the diamond crossing and to allow space below for the major road intersection and buildings around it.
Heading to purchase my ticket through to the existing MRT Blue Line.
The full route map of the MRT Blue Line on the ticket vending machine.
Heading back into the paid area.
MRT Blue Line Siemens BLE Train
The MRT Blue Line Hua Lamphong – Tha Phra Extension also marks the launch of the MRT Blue Line Siemens BLE Trains, with the extension using a full fleet of it.
The interior of the MRT Blue Line Siemens BLE Train.
The terminating route map with only BL01 Tha Phra MRT Station flashing.
TV screens are placed off-centre, similar to the existing Siemens Modular Metro IBL Trains.
The three rows of longitudinal hand grips placed throughout the train car for more people to move in to the centre of the car easily.
Almost all spaces by the gangway are designated as passenger-in-wheelchair spaces on board the Siemens BLE Train.
These are shown clearly with the wheelchair symbol and a side case with a rope to secure the wheelchair to.
The gangway looks similar to the existing Siemens Modular Metro IBL Trains.
Hand grips are placed in a rounded formation around the train doors.
Departing from BL01 Tha Phra MRT Station.
Looking back at the line to PP16 BL10 Tao Poon MRT Station.
BL28 Hua Lamphong MRT Station Cross-Platform Interchange
Back at BL28 Hua Lamphong MRT Station, I crossed the platform to change to the regular MRT Blue Line trains to head to my ticketed destination.
Platform 1 is for trains to BL01 Tha Phra MRT Station.
Platform 2 is for trains to PP16 BL10 Tao Poon MRT Station.
On Platform 2 for trains to PP16 BL10 Tao Poon MRT Station, the information screens shows the train arrival time as bound for BL01 Tha Phra MRT Station instead. However, it is actually referring to the correct incoming train which will terminate here and head back to PP16 BL10 Tao Poon MRT Station.
Overall, a rather pleasant ride on the MRT Blue Line Hua Lamphong – Tha Phra Extension. While it was really crowded, it was kind of expected as it was the first day of operations for free trips on a public holiday. On top of that, trains ran at a reduced frequency of 8 minutes, with 1 train seemingly missing from service as there seems to be a 16-minute gap after every 3 trains. This also gives Bangkok Yai a new way to get across the Chao Phraya River to the city.
The crowd management, however, was excellent as compared with the slow and messy recent MRT Jakarta launch. There were no jostling whatsoever, and everyone had that little bit of personal space even on board the super packed train.
I can’t wait for Happy Blue Line to be even more happy very soon with the upcoming Tha Phra – Lak Song Extension and Tha Phra – Tao Poon Extension.
From the latest new I got from MRTA, MRTA has considered extending the test run to Bang Wah station (2 stations west of Tha Phra station) along with the test run interval from 10 AM to 4 PM to 8 AM to 6 PM after they have learnt that there are 50000 passengers on the first day of test run of Blue line extension across the underwater tunnel. This kind of test run extension will be implemented in Mid August 2019 before the revenue service on 29 September 2019