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Phuket Tuk-Tuks Versus Light Rail, Pink Buses

Phuket Tuk-Tuks Versus Light Rail, Pink Buses

Thursday, March 18, 2010
UPDATE

The Chief of the Provincial Administration Group, Preeraboon Tongsiriset, said on Friday that reports that a light rail service was no longer being considered for Phuket were not accurate. ''At Tuesday's meeting it was resolved to look at all options and give Phuket the best possible transport system, perhaps in a combination of rail and bus, or even tram. A lot more research has to be done yet.''

Original Report

PHUKET is seeking a light rail service, more pink buses or some other form of public transport because ''taxis and tuk-tuks rip off the tourists,'' Phuket Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob told a meeting this week.

A representative from the Transport Ministry came from Bangkok especially for the meeting at Provincial Hall. Phuket Provincial Administrative Organsiation Chief Executive Paiboon Upatising was also at the meeting, along with representatives from the Highways Department, Public Health, local authorities, senior traffic police and Vice Governor Treerayut Eamtakul.

''Taxi drivers and tuk-tuk woulds be the losers. The loss of jobs and income is a very serious matter,'' the Transport Ministry official said.

Light rail required an organisation to run the system and it was unlikely to run at a profit, the meeting heard. The effects of the introduction of a new system also needed to be studied.

Khun Paiboon asked why a new organisation needed to be set up. He said Phuket City already had a well-regarded network of seoungtau (twin bench) buses and that could be extended to other parts of the island.

The Orborjor provincial organisation was planning to take back control of the buses from the present private contractor, he said. The frequency of the service would be improved and the 16-bus fleet would also be expanded.

''Students currently pay 10 baht and the service is working really well,'' Khun Paiboon said. ''I believe it would be much more effective to expand this service to cater for the needs across all of Phuket.

The buses run from 6am to 8pm on two major routes north-south and east-west, with a 20-minute interval between arrivals. A third route is to be introduced shortly.

''The buses are a symbol of Phuket, very traditional, and tourists seem to like the rides.''

A gps system enabled the bus routes to be controlled and would-be passengers simply had to make a call to know when the next bus would be coming by.

While a light rail service would probably take a decade or more to implement at great cost, the buses (also known as photong on Phuiket) could be introduced far more rapidly at low cost.

Whether Phuket's tuk-tuk and taxi drivers would accept any form of competition remains to be seen.

The tuk-tuks and taxis have had a monopoly on some key west coast routes on the island and usually keep operating long after sunset.

The President of the Taxi Club [of] Patong, Setthasak Bursom, told Phuketwan that his newly-formed club had about 200 tuk-tuks and 300 taxis and minivans represented. There were more than 2000 four-wheel hire vehicles, half of them taxis, in Patong.

''We can't cover them all yet but we do hope to grow,'' he said.

''The price is not high, like you think,'' he said. ''I was in Italy and caught a taxi that cost me about 700 baht.''

While what's reasonable in Italy differs from what's reasonable on Phuket, Khun Setthasak said the club would emphasise service and change the image of tuk-tuks in Patong.

''Many people say there are rip-offs so we we hope to train drivers in giving good service, and impart knowledge about English and traffic laws.''

If drivers, perhaps dressed in uniform, give good service in a comfortable vehicle, people will be happy to pay, he said.

Parking on Patong's beach road was a problem caused by the hire-cars and hire-motorcycles parked on the beach side, he said.

''All the tuk-tuks park on the other side of the road,'' he said. ''Now we try to talk with the tessaban to see if they can remove the footpath to make for more parking.''

There were ''about 100 different spots'' around Patong reserved for taxis, tuk-tuks or hire motorcycles, many of them outside resorts.

While Khun Setthasak is president of this group, he is also vice-president of an even larger group, the Confederation of Transport Services of Patong.

Both groups are talking about parking and other problems in light of the Governor's wish to introduce lower fares and meters.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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The comment below says it all about the mentality the governor is facing.

''Now we try to talk with the tessaban to see if they can remove the footpath to make for more parking.''

Posted by Sir Burr on March 18, 2010 13:06

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''All the tuk-tuks park on the other side of the road,'' he said. ''Now we try to talk with the tessaban to see if they can remove the footpath to make for more parking.''

Why stop at removing the footpath. Remove the hotels, restaurants and bars also that will allow even greater parking for the tuk-tuks.

Oh hang on, what a silly idea, now there would be no reason for the tourists to come.

Posted by Whispering Jack on March 18, 2010 14:03

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Remove the footpath for more parking !!!

Seoungtau (twin bench) buses on a continuous loop would clean up most traffic and parking problems in Patong...find a place at either end of Patong and let the tuk tuks ply their vehicles from there

Posted by Anonymous on March 18, 2010 16:13

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If you were to take a vote from both Thai residents and Farang expats and tourists who live here in Phuket to see what they would prefer as their transportation system here, I am sure you will find that 90 percent+ would vote for the seoungtau.

It would be nice if they still had a few of them continue on their routes until at least until midnight (12am.) Get rid of the tuk tuks completely. They have had to many chances already.

Posted by arby on March 18, 2010 17:36

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I dream of the day when I can walk out to the main road and flag down a 35 THB,starting fee, metered taxi and go almost anywhere below THB 100.

Why is this dream so impossible here ?

Posted by AP Alme on March 18, 2010 23:15

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Remove the foot path, be welcome to be run over! Incredible...

Posted by Fritz Pinguin on March 18, 2010 23:53

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The governor seems to be making progress - I think the light rail idea was put up to be shot down, if you see what I mean - but I know what I'd do in his situation.

Buy 100 buses. 200 or 300 hundred if necessary. Create routes to every nook and cranny of the island. Including the airport.

At the same time, introduce the metered taxis and tuk tuks, metered at exactly the same rates as apply in Bangkok. Then give the tuk tuk drivers an option.

Apply for jobs as state bus drivers, with a regular income (and perhaps give them a deal on selling their vehicles to the government) or sit by the side of the road and wait to see if anyone finds 400 baht reasonable when there's a 10 baht bus coming in 5 minutes.

Also make it clear that anyone who messes with state buses or their drivers will face long spells in the Big House. If there wasn't a mass exodus from the tuk tuk ranks, I'd be surprised.

Posted by Doug on March 19, 2010 06:08

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Why not concrete over the Andaman Sea in Patong? Think how much parking there would be then!

Posted by Maximus on March 19, 2010 07:21

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DOUG, Spot on the button...hope some Thai official like the governor reads this.....hope so..or are we still in dreamland......

Posted by barka on March 19, 2010 08:16

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''Remove the footpath.'' I had to read this article a few times because I could not believe my eyes! Please, send these people back to school!

Posted by elizabeth on March 19, 2010 14:05

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I was already doubled up laughing over the 'I was in Italy and 700 bht for a taxi' comment when the 'Let's remove the footpaths' came in. What's going to happen to the vendors already occupying the what little footpaths left going to do then. You guys are killing me. Keep up the good work, I need a good laugh each day.

Posted by Andyman on March 21, 2010 23:50

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"Whether Phuket's tuk-tuk and taxi drivers would accept any form of competition remains to be seen."

What? Why is it up to them? A new restaurant doesn't go around in a neighborhood to all the existing restaurants to ask if it's okay to move in.

Posted by kelly on March 22, 2010 02:04


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