Travellers wait on board a third-class train carriage with a sign offering a free ride at Hua Lamphong station in February.
The State Railway of Thailand has confirmed the current free third-class travel scheme on interprovincial trains will end with the introduction of the government’s new e-welfare scheme for low-income earners from Oct 1.
The free-ride scheme was introduced in 2008, applying on selected Bangkok city buses and interprovincial train services, and has been extended annually by all governments. It will end on Sept 30.
SRT acting governor Anon Luangboriboon, an inspector-general at the Transport Ministry, said on Tuesday many travellers had benefitted from the free travel, but it had now been replaced.
The scheme was intended to help low-income people, but any traveller willing to go third-class could use it until now, regardless of their nationality or level of income.
In order to truly offer assistance to low-income earners, the government on Aug 29 approved guidelines for helping 11.7 million registered poor people by issuing them electronic welfare cards.
The subsidy scheme has two parts. One for use in travel and another for purchase of consumer goods.
Cardholders will get 500 baht credit each month, paid into their cards.
Bangkol recipients will have two chips in their cards. One chip is for use only on public buses and electric trains in Bangkok. The second chip is for interprovincial buses operated by Transport Co and for SRT trains, and for purchases of consumer goods, education items, and raw material for agriculture from Blue Flag shops and markets, or shops registered with the Commerce Ministry.
People outside Bangkok will be able to use their cards only on interprovincial trains or Transport Co buses, and for buying the discounted goods at the designated outlets.
The credit does not accumulate if unused. The scheme starts on Oct 1.
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