Phuket ‘smart bus’ considered to replace light rail, save B15.2bn

Construction News
Image: MRTA

Phuket ‘smart bus’ considered to replace light rail, save B15.2bn

PHUKET: Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob has ordered an in-depth analysis of a proposal to dump the Phuket light-rail project in favour of a ‘smart bus’ system that would reduce the cost of launching a mass transport option on the island by some B15.2 billion.

The order came yesterday (May 13) during a teleconference Mr Saksayam held to follow up the progress of transport projects in regional main provinces, reports state news agency MCOT.

Mr Saksayam explained that the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) has proposed to change the type of transport system to be rolled out in Phuket from light rail to a bus-based operation.

The MRTA, which has been officially assigned the task of implementing the Phuket mass transit project, which up until now has been focussed purely in building a light-rail system, had already conducted a preliminary investigation into the proposal, he said.

“The ‘smart bus without driver’, or automated rapid transit (ART), will reduce the budget of the project by about B15.289 billion. Additionally, the time required for construction will also be shorter by about nine months, which will allow us to set lower fares for passengers,” he said.

“At this stage, we have a concept to set three different rates of fare according to service areas: within Phuket Town, outside of Phuket Town, and travelling between Phuket Town and outside areas.

“For construction, the option that requires the least time to complete will be chosen, such as using precast concrete and launching gantries,” he added.

Mr Saksayam also explained that the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP) had discussed with the MRTA and the Expressway Authority of Thailand (EXAT) how construction of the project would affect traffic across the island.

To resolve the issue, the agencies suggested delaying the launch of the Phuket mass transit system until 2030.

“If we work on the construction of the public transport project and the Patong tunnel project, which are currently planned to open in 2026 and 2028 respectively, at the same time, the construction will affect the traffic on the island very much,” he said.

“However, if we postpone the construction of the public transport project to open in 2030, this can help reduce the effect on traffic,” he added.

“I ordered the MRTA and EXAT to present the action plans and timeline for the two choices within two weeks,” Mr Saksayam said.

“After the COVID-19 outbreak has been resolved, representatives from the two agencies will go to Phuket to conduct a public hearing,” he noted.

“At this stage, Phuket City Municipality has approved the MRTA to work on the public transport project on Thepkrasattri Rd and Phuket Rd,” he said.


Image: MRTA