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State Railway of Thailand

Name of the state-owned rail operator in Thailand, which was founded in 1890 as the Royal State Railways of Siam. The construction of the first route, now part of the Northern Line, was started in 1891 and completed on 23 May 1892, and linked Bangkok with Ayutthaya. On 19 June 1903, the second track was completed, that connected Bangkok with Phetchaburi and which is today part of the Southern Line. Currently the railway network consist of circa 4,000 kilometres of track, which are operated from the capital's Hua Lampong Train Station (fig.), which is the main terminus of most routes, not counting some minor suburban end stations, such as the Thonburi Train Station in Bangkok Noi (fig.), which in 2003 was moved a few block to the West, in order to allow expansion of the Siriraj Hospital, the Wong Wian Yai Train Station, which connects Thonburi with Samut Songkhram over the Mae Khlong-Mahachai Railway, etc. Though the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) serves an estimated 50 million passengers per year and despite large government budgets, it consistently operates at a loss. Most of its equipment is outdated and poorly maintained, and it is publicly known to be rather inefficient. In December 2013, a rail trip with the State Railway of Thailand governor on board, to show off the safety of the reopened northern track, following major repairs after a spate of derailments, became a huge embarrassment when the train carrying the SRT chief derailed in Lamphun. Besides this, trains are in Thailand –as in other parts of Southeast Asia– perceived to be a means of transportation for the poor, hence many people will avoid travelling by rail. On a positive note, Railway of Thailand has a large amount of assets, including real estate and land, some of which has over time been transformed into public parks, such as Chatuchak Park (fig.). Unlike the Bangkok Metro (fig.) and the Bangkok Mass Transit System (fig.), the Bangkok Airport Link (fig.), which started service in mid-2010, is also operated by the State Railway of Thailand. Many of the old steam locomotives (fig.) once used by he State Railway Of Thailand, have been preserved and are on display at locations throughout the country, often at provincial train stations. The network has one railway tunnel, which is located in Khun Tahn, along the Northern Line that currently connects Bangkok with Chiang Mai (fig.). In Thai, the State Railway of Thailand is known as kahn rot fai haeng prathet thai (การรถไฟแห่งประเทศไทย), on trains usually abbreviated as r. f. th. (ร.ฟ.ท.). See also POSTAGE STAMPS (1) and (2).