Thailand from the train

2990 - stookhout op lorries

A thought about the train

Nakhon Pathom March 26th 1993 a random picture without further connection with the text below it’s just an illustration but typical Thai and only fitting the concept in a certain way.
The SRT – State Railway of Thailand – is a governmental company and all that comes along with especially making huge losses year after year. Once in a while complaints about in the paper, Bangkok Post front page news but there’s nothing new at all. It’s an old road or in this case better spoken: railroad, making money with Public Transportation (train, tram, bus) is a dream and remains a delusion until we learn to organize the things in a natural way. It only can be successful if some of the real costs kept hidden from the public by making a manipulated bookkeeping.
Although there’re companies writing black ciphers, a relief for any stock holder, it does not in pare with the reality. Japan is a fine example; once a sole (state owned) company the JNR – Japanese National Railways, famous for its Skinhansen, a high-speed network, the first in the world, beside a cape gauge (1067 mm) system. A well organised and good running enterprise, exactly what a railway should be and how to operate. However, the finances didn’t stay in line and Japan decided to split the company in different private entities leaving behind a loss of enormous proportions, millions and more Dollars not name it in Yen. A financial burden so to speak but not on the shoulders of the new companies and nobody spoke about later when the results of the different bodies were published and proudly proofed being profitable.
Trick and tricks only like in Europe where under the rule of Brussels (European Union) most State Railways were forced to give up their identity and being privatised. The infrastructure remains in state hands as a different endeavour responsible for maintaining the network and building new lines. All others competent to run a train were also able to use it against a matching fee pro kilometre. A simple solution and it sounds fantastic at least for ears based on capitalism instead of a more socialistic orientated nature. Dollar signs, making money, greed… The evil will not end.
It has reshaped the European Railway Network (not in all countries yet) more and more different companies and maybe for any railway enthusiast the ultimate paradise, the reality is another thing. In my opinion to much money is wasted to keep a brand upright. In Germany for example; the local governments are responsible for the local transport hereto they buying the services from the lowest bidder, this could be a private one or the national railways operated under one brand: DB – Deutsche Bahn with affiliates. In the end it’s still taxpayers money that pays the bills, why not so in the first place without the privatisation construction? Somewhere in the chain someone makes money on someone else’s expense without any doubt but the question or even thought that there might be another solution won’t be asked.
Back to Thailand and I can imagine why policy-makers dream of an elucidation like painted because it takes a trouble of their hands. Running a railway needed a farsighted view and for all knowledge about or better a certain inspiration instead of occupying a chair (management seat) shared by the old boys network. In the end it is not the manager that makes a railway roll but the real workers on the floor. The engine driver, the conductor, the sleeper car attendant, the switchman, the gatekeeper, the station master and his assistance, the workers along the line to keep the things in shape, without them nothing won’t work and would leave any politician and manager empty handed.
Systems; and all have their pro and contra things but the one in Thailand is running on its last legs so to speak. Neglecting and not enough investment makes it almost a museum venture and nothing against it neither this must be a bad omen. On the contrary as long as it for fill a safe duty and with sufficient maintenance it can be continued for years. From the heart of the matter it might be wise to put an historian on the helm or even better a railway fan with both attitudes of being a good business man on the one side without loosing the sight of the real state of existence.
No time to whine, tears won’t bring relief only more sorrow. It’s the twilight zone of decisions former politicians never made because they had no clue or something else was far more important, own interest for example instead the concern for a nation as a whole. To govern means anticipating the future, it couldn’t be repeated enough.

It was all about steam, a special ride from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi and this station chosen for refuelling; wood and water, the later with help from the local fire brigade.

It was all about steam, a special ride from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi and this station chosen for refuelling; wood and water, the later with help from the local fire brigade.


About Robert von Hirschhorn

Author / Performer or in Dutch: schrijver / dichter
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