1. Monorail Siam-Sayan
The BMA have drawn up plans for no less than 8 monorail routes throughout the city. Of these, three have been prioritized and, at present, the first to actually happen will be the circular monorail route between Siam, Chulalongkorn University and Sam Yan. The 1.5 kilometer circuit aims to reduce traffic, especially on Rama I Road where cars currently average 6-8 kilometers per hour. They hope the monorail will service at least 5,000 people a day, with Chulalongkorn University providing a depot space for the monorail trains to be housed. The other two priority routes are from Yummarat Intersection to the BMA Building (completion date: three years) and Bang Na to Suvarnabhumi Airport (completion date: 4 years). There are further five routes penciled in for the as yet undisclosed future: Thong Lor-Ekkamai-Ramkhameng University; Ratchada-Ladprao intersection-Chatuchak Park and three lines in Thonburi. Even the private sector is getting in on the act, with a project to connect the Grand Square housing project to the Rama 9 MRT station that hopes to service 30,000 people.
Verdict: Nice idea but a completely unrealistic timeframe.
WHERE: Siam, Sam Yan, Chula
HOW MUCH?: B5 billion
WHEN?:To be built in 2011, Open Dec 5, 2012
2. Bangkok Eye
We all know about the positive impact that the London Eye in London and the Singapore Flyer had on their cities. Now Thailand might be getting its own high-flying ferris wheel, offering 360-degree views of the city, after the Bangkok Governor, Sukhumbhand Paripatra mentioned possible plans for a Bangkok Eye. Opinion was split between fierce criticism over the lavish budget and excited anticipation. The project is still very much up in the air, with no definite plans as to where the wheel would be, or who would pay for it. Still the working plan is for it to be 176 meters high (making it the world’s tallest), and there is a preferred site next to the Chao Phraya River. Meanwhile the Governor insists the money will come from private sector investment only. The BMA see the Eye as being a big tourist attraction: the London Eye gets 3.5 million visitors a year.
Verdict: Heck, if we don’t have to pay for it, we’ll take it. But can we think of a more original name, please?
WHERE: On the banks of the Chao Phraya river close to the Grand Palace.
HOW MUCH?: B30 billion
WHEN?: Not scheduled.
3. Flood Prevention System
While the city might have got away with it this year, especially when compared with the rest of the country, flooding is a problem that’s not going to go away. In response to this, the BMA announced plans to build four nearly six-meter-high underground tunnels as part of their long-term flood prevention scheme. After years spending billions on short-term solutions, this new plan, supported by the Engineering Institute of Thailand, is a longer term fix that increases the city’s drainage capacity from the current rate of 95 cubic meters a second to as much as 240 cubic meters. The 36 km of tunnels will be positioned in the following areas of town: Don Muang (13.5 km), Ratchadaphisek-Sutthisan (6.5 km), Suan Luang Rama IX (9.5 km), and Rama 9-Ramkhamhaeng (5 km). They will drain water from large parts of the city stretching from Din Daeng to Phra Khanong and Bang Na to Lad Phrao. All the water will be siphoned off into the Chao Phraya River.
Verdict: That these huge holes will be dug in some seriously crowded parts of town does make us a little concerned about the upheaval it’s going to cause. And won’t the Chao Phraya flood over with all that extra water? And aren’t we all going to drown in 2012 anyway?
WHERE: Don Muang, Ratchadaphisek, Suan Luang and Rama 9.
HOW MUCH?: B150 million/km or B5.4 billion total.
WHEN?: The first tunnel is set to open Jan, 2011
4. Homeless shelter
Before the BMA decided to make over Sanam Luang it wasn’t just home to a load of pigeons. It was also the spot where the city’s homeless population came to sleep at night. As part of the transformation, the BMA wanted to find somewhere a bit more permanent to house the homeless and turned their attention to the old Rama 6 Technology Vocational School. They are now renovating the 1,600-square-meter space. When it’s finished it should be able to house 400 people. It’s due to complete at the same time that Sanam Luang is set to reopen, so preventing the homeless heading back to their old sleeping spot. They are still deciding whether to offer a bed for the night for free or charge B30 a night.
Verdict: A worthy first step towards a long term solution to homelessness in Bangkok. We just hope they see sense and don’t charge for the privilege—and continue to develop cheap housing that people could actually call home.
WHERE: Rama 6 Technology Vocational School
HOW MUCH?: Not confirmed.
WHEN?: In negotiations for a 1-3 year lease with an option to buy. Renovations will last 4-5 months after the budget is approved.
5. New Futsal Stadium
You might not know it but Thailand is actually going to be hosting the next FIFA Futsal World Cup in the autumn of 2012. Of course that means we need a flagship stadium to host the indoor version of the beautiful game and the BMA (with the approval of the Cabinet) recently selected a site at the BMA Training and Development Institute in Nong Chok. The 12,000-seat stadium will occupy 80,000 square-meters, and will be designed by King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi. After a two month bidding process, construction is due to begin in August 2011 and should take 14 months with a grand opening set for November 2012. The BMA has also set aside budgets to improve all the existing indoor stadiums like Indoor Stadium Hua Mak and Nimibut Stadium.
Verdict: The whole plan is on a very tight schedule and we’re not sure this is really the best location for the stadium either. It is a lowland area at a high risk of flooding and it is not exactly easy to get to. We would have preferred the other option put forward: to build the stadium in the Makkasan area on State Railway of Thailand land. Too bad it would have cost the BMA a lot more to secure the space needed.
WHERE: BMA Training and Development Institute, Nong Chok district
HOW MUCH?: B1.3 billion
WHEN?: Nov 2012
6. Sanam luAng Make-over
Funded by the government’s “Thai Khemkhaeng” stimulus program, this on-going project is one of a number of events scheduled to celebrate the King’s 84th birthday next year. After getting rid of all the vendors, homeless people and animals (including 10,000 pigeons said to have been relocated to Ratchaburi), the BMA handed over Sanam Luang to the army to revamp the 120,000-square-meter area—apparently soldiers are great with flowers. The park will be split into two sections: the southern half, close to the palace, will be turned into a ceremonial ground for royal events, while the northern section will be concrete-paved for public use. The huge budget will be spent on landscaping, tree planting, new benches, lighting and underground public toilets! They’re also spending money on improving the drainage system so you avoid having to stand in floodwater while using the loo.
Verdict: Parks and toilets are nice but we would have liked to keep the vendors.
WHERE: Sanam Luang
HOW MUCH?: B181 million
WHEN?: Jul 2011