PHUKET has 4000 illegal taxis, a representative from the Ministry of Tourism and Sport told a meeting about Phuket taxis at Provincial Hall on Thursday. The meeting was chaired by Vice Governor Tree Akaradate.
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KARON is ready and waiting for changes on tuk-tuks, district mayor Tawee Tongcham said today as Phuket waited expectantly for a new deal on public transport.
A special committee has been organised in Karon to consider an experiment with metered tuk-tuks and other innovations and is now only awaiting the Governor's response before pursuing active change.
Several meetings have been taking place on Phuket about tuk-tuks, taxis and public transport. After years of neglect, the island's future needs finally seem to be becoming the focus of attention.
Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob, having asked for a week to make his assessment of demands by taxi and limousine drivers at Phuket International Airport, has bargained for a deadline extension to mid-February so that an informed decision can be made.
Last week, about 100 taxi and limousine drivers surrounded the island's Provincial Hall administrative hq in Phuket City in a protest over the issuing of 30 new licences and airport rents that are seen as excessive.
On Monday evening, the blockading of a resort by local taxi drivers at one well-known beach highlighted the importance of the issue to Phuket's tourism future.
The brief blockade led the resort manager to capitulate over the introduction of a free shuttle bus to Patong. Fearing for the safety of his staff and his business, the GM immediately decided to give in to the drivers.
With two recent incidents of violence against tourists still fresh in the minds of proponents of improvements to public transport, the safety of visitors and the future of the tourist industry remain the key priorities.
But the link has now been clearly established between the tuk-tuks and the airport taxis.
Both groups face high costs, an increasing number of operators amid economic downturn, and a customer rebellion because of extortionate fares.
Authorities have yet to admit that the tuk-tuk and taxi businesses on Phuket should be rationlised as part of a comprehensive strategy for introducing an obvious and much-needed alternative: efficient low-cost public transport.
A 500,000 baht government investigation is looking at Phuket's future needs, with a light-rail system being considered as part of that study.
While tuk-tuk groups have many expat critics, the Karon organisation is probably the most progressive and prepared to examine potential changes.
Mayor Tawee said the first meeting of the special Karon tuk-tuk committee took place at Club Med Phuket on Kata beach two weeks ago.
On the committee with the mayor are the island's Director of Transport, Kanok Siripanichkoon, Vice Governor Smit Parawatwichai, Chief of Chalong Police, Colonel Chinnarat Rittatatakananan, the president of the Hotel Association of Kata-Karon, Sombat Atiset, Karon-Kata Tuk-Tuk Association president, Porntep Chamkawn, the District Chief Officer (Amphur Muang) Supachai Photnukoon, and deputy police chief of Phuket, Colonel Charit Keawyarat.
All that's needed before the consideration of changes, including a possible trial of tuk-tuk meters, is the Governor's assent, Mayor Tawee said.