The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) should make conserving old railway stations a pre-condition when handing out new contracts for double-track railway projects, according to academic and conservationist Parinya Chukaew.
In its present form, the SRT track development plan puts old railways that are of high value from an architectural perspective at risk, said Parinya, a professor of architecture at the Ladkrabang campus of King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology. Roughly half of the 443 ageing railway stations across the country have strong heritage value but none of the former track-development contracts had preservation clauses, he noted. The contracts were scrapped early this week and must be drawn up again.
This is an opportunity for the SRT to save these “heritage” stations by requiring contractors to respect their value, said the academic, who has spent two years campaigning for this issue. Earlier last month, Parinya petitioned Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha asking him to step in and save the main station in Khon Kaen’s Muang district, as well as a satellite structure at Chira junction. Both were scheduled to be torn down later this month as the northeastern province moves to rebuild some of its infrastructure.
Under the original plan, the old station will be replaced with a modern two-story building and the whole area turned into a large commercial complex within two years. One building in the compound was recently bulldozed. He said that Khon Kaen station, though modified several times, has high historical value given that it still serves as a center for economic and urban development some eight decades after it was built.
Pongkwan Lassus, director of the Urban Heritage Office of the Association of Siamese Architects, agreed the SRT should pay more attention to heritage spots, including those not registered with the Fine Arts Department. “They are considered assets with high cultural capital,” she said. If the SRT cannot help then civic groups and experts can, she said, adding that state enterprises must allow such groups to have a role. –