PRINCESS Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand formally 'opened' the Blue line of the Bangkok metro on January 11, following successful completion of trial runs with a Siemens-built three-car trainset. Linking Hualampong and Bang Sue, the 22 km route is officially known as the Chaloem Ratchamongkhon line.

Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit and his deputy Vichet Kasemthongsri participated in a test run between Kaphaeng Phet and Asoke on January 8, after which the minister declared that the Metropolitan Rapid Transit Authority expected to finish commissioning at the end of March and hand over the line to operating concessionaire BMCL for a 'soft opening' on April 13 to coincide with the Songkran festival celebrating the Thai New Year.

Revenue operation is scheduled to start on August 12, to mark the birthday of Queen Sirikit, but BMCL Managing Director Sombat Kijkarnchanaluck said that the line may open earlier if everything goes to plan. BMCL plans to operate a free service between April and August using 19 trainsets, and expects to carry around 10 000 passengers a day.