Rapid 171: The First Long Distance Train From Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal
On 19 January 2023, Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal, formerly known as Bang Sue Grand Station, replaced Bangkok Hua Lamphong Railway Station as the main long distance train terminal in Bangkok. In view of this move, King Vajiralongkorn bestowed the name of Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal to this mega station on 8 September 2022 to mark this new era of railways in Thailand. To mark this occasion, I went on the very first long distance train out of Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal with Rapid 171.
This is a picture-intensive blog post. Please be aware if you are using mobile data.
Bang Sue Junction Railway Station
I started my journey to by Express 71, the very last long distance train out of Bangkok Hua Lamphong Railway Station, to Bang Sue Junction Railway Station. Thereafter, I crossed over to Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal on foot to mark this new era.
Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal
The controversial 33 million Baht to change the sign of Bang Sue Grand Station to Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal has been put on hold, and Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal still reflects its old name of Bang Sue Grand Station.
The courtyard of Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal facing Bang Sue Junction Railway Station is huge, spanning almost the length of the new railway terminal. The SRT Hua Lamphong-Krung Thep Aphiwat Free Shuttle Bus departs from here.
Heading in to Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal.
Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal is laid out in a linear design, under the long 800 meter platforms.
The long distance trains area is located at the north of Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal.
There are insufficient signages at Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal, with pop-up signs such as these located at random spots around the mega station.
There are airport-style seats and waiting areas close to the departure escalators for long distance trains.
These get full quickly closer to departure time as all passengers must wait here until about 20 minutes before departure. Unlike Hua Lamphong, passengers must wait till boarding is called, just like in stale railway stations around the world. This causes more stress during boarding as hundreds of passengers must queue together to ascend up the escalators together, with hundreds of passengers trying to find the coach at the same time within the 20-minute departure window.
A scale model of Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal is located around the waiting area.
The main drop-off for cars at Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal.
Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal has 24 tracks on 2 levels, segregated by track gauge. Meter gauge tracks are located on the 2nd floor, and standard gauge tracks (to be filled in) are located on the 3rd floor.
The Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal project is not just about a big station, it also involves changing the tracks that trains will run on into Bangkok, mainly to increase speed and eliminate level crossings in the already-congested city.
Long distance trains now take the Red Line tracks into Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal. Congestion is especially relieved on the northern sector with the new quadruple-track railway splitting commuter and long distance trains on independent tracks.
Departure screens are scarce in Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal, only available at the ticketing area. No departure screens are located in the actual departure area.
Here’s the departure board for the first day of operations, which is going to be famously not followed due to massive delays coming up throughout the day and night.
The manned ticket counter area is split according to railway lines.
There is also a big departure board pointing out to the driveway, but it’s a bit too high to be seen immediately.
The overall map of Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal.
The upper floor above the ticketing concourse is not opened yet.
A commemorative sign for the completion of the Red Line project is put here.
There is a food court near Door 4 of Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal selling local food.
Back at the departure area, passenger wayfinding is scarce with no visual information of departing trains provided. Public announcements are also made in Thai, with English announcements simple and template without timing details.
Trains on the Southern Line depart from Platforms 7 and 8.
Passengers would be channeled up to the platform with this 1 escalator.
Surprisingly, the only fanfare for the public was a personal greeting by the Governor of the State Railway of Thailand. The ceremonial flag-off would be for the actual second train to depart from Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal by a private KiHa 183 train to Thammasat University for VIPs only.
Nearing to departure time, queue poles were brought in to close off the departure area.
My ticket for the Rapid 171, the first ever train to depart from Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal. However, I will just be on the short ride to Bang Bamru and not going all the way to Sungai Golok.
Staff prepare souvenirs to hand out to Rapid 171 passengers when boarding.
Passengers wait in front of the boarding escalator when departure time is near.
This new system, while useful the the railways, adds stress to the passenger experience as hundreds of passengers are hoarded together in preparation for departure.
20 minutes before departure, the queue poles opened for passengers to ascend up to the platforms.
The hundreds of passengers on Rapid 171 are channeled through this 1 escalator.
Tickets are checked by the staff handing out souvenirs.
Heading up to the long distance train platform.
Up on the platform, the rake of Rapid 171 was not in yet.
I was given a keychain of CRRC Qishuyan (QSY) CDA5B1 locomotive to commemorate this first long distance train departure from Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal.
With no train to board, passengers start to crowd up the long distance train platform.
At 12.58pm, 12 minutes to departure, Alsthom ALS 4137 as the shunter hauls the rake o fRapid 171 in to Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal Platform 8.
Following the arrangement at Hua Lamphong, higher class coaches are on the Bangkok inbound end of the train.
3rd Class coaches are on the outbound end of the train.
Rightfully so, CRRC Qishuyan CDA5B1 locomotive QSY 5201 leads the Rapid 171 as the very first long distance train out of Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal.
The builder plate of CRRC Qishuyan Co., Ltd.
The Full Van follows behind, but no freight activity is done at Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal.
Plenty of media and passengers crowd the platform of Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal as everyone tries to board in 12 minutes.
The running joke of the day, however, was on the new train destination signs spelling the new station as Krung Thep Aphiwat “Cental” Terminal.
It was difficult for passengers in the rear coaches to walk over as up to 76 passengers are trying to board the 3rd Class coaches through the 2 narrow doors per coach in 12 minutes.
To save some time, some 3rd Class group passengers resorted to transferring luggage through windows.
To cater to the high platforms at Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal, the new fold-down plate is now in use.
Able-bodied passengers are still able to straddle across the large gap if possible.
Otherwise, passengers can use the added platform filler plate on one end of the coach.
The location of the platform filler plates are indicated with blue arrows on the train car.
Ah, finally a departure screen, but passengers have already found the train at the platform.
Bogie Second Class Carriage (BSC)
I headed over to my booked 2nd Class seat coach (Bogie Second Class Carriage (BSC)).
The destination sign of my 2nd Class coach, going all the way to Sungai Golok.
The interior of the Bogie Second Class Carriage (BSC). Seats can be rotated according to the direction of travel.
My booked window seat 28 for this trip.
The legroom available on board the Bogie Second Class Carriage (BSC).
A tray table is provided at the seat back.
The Rapid 171 departed from Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal at 1.16pm – 6 minutes delayed. At 1.10pm, however, the departure screen had already changed to the Special Express 37 Thaksin Express, the next train using Platform 8.
The Rapid 171 departed very slowly out of Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal.
Staff were bring out portable platform fillers following the departure.
Plenty of SRT staff were looking out for the departing Rapid 171, but there was no ceremony commemorating this actual first train departure.
The media were on hand capturing the station master holding the green flag for the departing Rapid 171.
Towards the end of the platform, there were a lot more people filming the departure of Rapid 171.
Heading out of Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal for the first time on a long distance train.
The Red Line train to Rangsit easily overtakes the Rapid 171 at speed.
Crossing over to the Southern Line. As compared with the Northern Line, the Southern Line out of Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal is only double-tracked, so there is complete sharing with the Red Line between Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal and Taling Chan Junction.
Passing by the new long distance train depot at Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal.
Passing by the Red Line EMU depot at Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal.
Splitting off the main Northern Line to the Southern Line.
Heading under the Prachim Ratthaya Expressway.
Crossing over Khlong Prapa on the elevated viaducts. No more level crossings for long distance trains in Bangkok.
Passing through Bang Son Railway Station.
Passing under the MRT Purple Line tracks.
Surprisingly, there are vendors from Sam Sen station on board hawking food and drinks, the same people which started the day from Express 71 as well. I wonder if this is a one-off sales or there are arrangements for Sam Sen vendors to sell food on Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal trains.
The Rapid 171 went at speed on the Red Line elevated tracks, heading out of Bang Sue area very quickly as compared with the old tracks on the ground.
Approaching Rama VI Bridge.
Passing parallel to Rama VI Bridge on the new Red Line viaducts.
Crossing the Chao Phraya River at speed.
Continuing at speed on the Red Line tracks.
Just like metro lines, there are sound barriers by the tracks near to residential areas.
Meeting the old track alignment on the ground level. The old track alignment is still in use by Ordinary, Commuter and freight trains heading to Bang Sue Junction and Bangkok Hua Lamphong.
Passing by the Bang Bamru Toll Booth.
Heading under the Prachim Ratthaya Expressway again.
Bang Bamru Railway Station
Entering the long distance platforms at Bang Bamru Railway Station.
Surprisingly, the long distance platforms at Bang Bamru Railway Station are low platforms even though it is a new Red Line station.
Railway fans prepare to disembark at Bang Bamru Railway Station with real travelling passengers preparing to board the Rapid 171.
The Rapid 171 arrived at Bang Bamru Railway Station at 1.30pm – 8 minutes delayed.
Despite having low platforms for long distance trains, Bang Bamru Railway Station offers seats on the platform and information screens about the long distance train, which I think already trumps Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal.
The Rapid 171 will depart in 4 minutes. However, as I was on a day of compact joyriding (or so I thought), I had to leave the platform immediately to connect with the Red Line back to Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal, and I had 5 minutes to do this.
Heading out of the Bang Bamru Railway Station long distance platforms via the underpass.
The underpass leads out to the public area of Bang Bamru Railway Station freely. From here, I connected with the SRT Nakhon Withi Line 2044 from Bang Bamru back to Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal for the next phase of joyriding.
I was surprised that Rapid 171 departed from Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal without much fanfare. Perhaps this was reserved for the VIPs on the second departing train which was the private KiHa 183 to Thammasat University. Nevertheless, the many railway fans on the same hobby made it a festive occasion anyway, and we can be proud to say that we were on the first actual departing long distance train from Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal.