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A detail from the new plan for Sarasin Bridge, showing the elevation of segments of the bridge.

Legendary Sarasin Changing

Sunday, November 25, 2007
PHUKET'S outgoing link with the mainland, the Sarasin Bridge, is to be replaced by a wider new bridge that will be erected alongside the existing structure.

The old bridge, renowned throughout Thailand for its romantic legend, will be improved so that larger boats can pass beneath it, creating a viewpoint for pedestrians that is likely to become a tourist attraction.

At a cost of 450 million baht, engineers plan for the new bridge to be erected within two years and one month of the budget being approved. Construction will probably begin early next year.

Environmental impact checks and surveys have been made and plans have been completed for the new bridge, which will be at the same level as the existing one-way bridge, which carries only outgoing traffic off Phuket.

Inbound traffic to the island will continue to use the Thepkasatri Bridge, which is just 15 years old, taller and modern in construction.

After 40 years, officials have decided it is time to replace the Sarasin Bridge. The old bridge, which cost almost 29 million baht in 1967, will be preserved and people will be able to walk across it.

The bridge will be reconstructed in the centre, with the carriageway lifted higher to allow larger boats to proceed beneath it.

A viewpoint protected by reinforced glass will be added in the middle, where two lovers made their legendary leap, with steps lead up to a platform under a Sino-Portuguese style sala.

Vast numbers of anglers usually dangle lines from the old bridge and the views across the waters that separate the island from the mainland are spectacular, especially towards the Andaman Sea at sunset.

The changes will mean that Phuket will have a new iconic postcard scene to rival the beaches and the Big Buddha. However, even in an emergency, the old bridge will no longer be able to carry vehicular traffic.

Supasak Noonsung, Chief of the Phuket Highway District, told The Post: "We are concerned to replace the old bridge before it becomes a risk. So the new bridge will prevent a potential tragedy."

There was a lot of debate about whether the old bridge should be adapted to the needs of tourists or kept as an alternative in an emergency. Eventually, Khun Supasak said, the decision was made to modify the bridge.

A Thai film has been made called "Sarasin, the Bridge of Love" telling the story of the legendary young pair who became lovers against the wishes of the young girl's family and eventually decided that their best path to happiness together was to jump to their death hand in hand from the middle of the Sarasin Bridge.

The bridge is to be closed for one day on October 31 for the making of another film, "Valentine."

The bridge is named after Pot Sarasin, the man who organised the funding for its building. The government was planning to spend the money on a bridge in Haad Yai, but Khun Pot proved to be more persuasive.

The bridge took two years to construct. Before then, travelers had to rely on ferries to travel to Phuket.

Sarasin bridge last made news in 2006 when Post reporters watched a convoy of trucks transferring ????hundreds of unidentified tsunami victims off the island in the dead of night, escorted by tourist police.

The bodies were being taken from the recently closed international identification facility near the start of the bridge to a cemetery in Phang Nga where insulated graves now house 350 of them.

The view across to the Andaman Sea is probably going to be a lasting memory of Phuket for tourists who leave the island by road. The new bridge, two lanes across, 12.20 metres wide and 655 metres long, has yet to be named.


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