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Opinion: Travelling at light speed

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Sirigate Apirat is the project secretary of the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTPP). He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Ramkhamhaeng University and has been serving as an analyst at the OTPP since 1995.

Here he talks about the issues and benefits of the proposed light rail system on Phuket.

PHUKET: Phuket’s light rail system will be the first of its kind outside of the Greater Bangkok area.

During construction, there will certainly be some bottlenecks as far as traffic is concerned. However, we have already prepared plans to lessen or avoid potential traffic congestion as much as we can.

Some people are concerned about rumors that we will be using existing lanes to build the light rail, causing more traffic than necessary. However, there are no lane closures proposed at all.

The light rail system is set to be situated on medians. Nonetheless, in some areas it will be necessary for the rail to run alongside the road lanes.

For areas like Thalang, there is no need for concern where the light rail will run. Though it will have to cross lanes at some sections, we have very carefully decided at which locations it will do so, and will construct barriers and crossing arms to avoid accidents.

Recently we have been asked to reconsider the crossings and to build underpasses for vehicles, so as to avoid crossing accidents. We are currently revising plans on that front.

Nevertheless, in town I realize it will require careful management to avoid accidents during the initial phases, as Phuket is the first province to have public rail transportation that runs alongside traffic in Thailand.

However, it is not impossible to manage – many countries use this system already. It is also much more environmentally friendly.

The OTPP aims to provide locals and expats knowledge of the light rail’s benefits by holding a conference or community meeting, as well as to try and change the behavior of people on the roads.

We have researched tram technology in cities like Amsterdam where it has been successfully implemented. But, due to the large numbers of motorbikes in Phuket, which is not like many other cites abroad, we have to adapt the technology to the local environment.

For example, during the initial phases of light rail usage, there will be many barriers along the road to avoid accidents. However, locals could adapt the way that they travel to work, either by taking public transportation or by using alternate routes.

We eventually would like to see vehicles banned from parking along the roadside in some areas, such as the Heroines’ Monument and the proposed Koh Kaew Station, which is one of the most traffic-heavy areas along the route.

We also plan on building more parking spaces at places like the airport and Chalong Circle.

The reason we chose to build a light rail instead of something similar to the Bangkok Transit System is that Phuket is a holiday destination with scenery and old town heritage, and to have the public rail system highly visible would not be suitable for the island.

The OTPP is now awaiting the final plans of the new road crossings, after which we will submit all documents for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). We expect all of that to be done by April.

Once the EIA has been submitted, it will take about one year to be approved. Once this happens, construction can begin.

So we ask the people of Phuket to please be patient throughout the entire process, because in the end it will bring several advantages, such as a better quality of life and a cleaner environment for everyone.

— Sukawin Tanthavanich

 

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