PHUKET CITY: The problem of transportation at Phuket International Airport has been dumped into the laps of at least 10 ad-hoc committees, who have been given the vaguest of briefs – to discuss solutions to the problem – and no deadline to report back with their conclusions.
The decision to set up the committees was made at a public meeting at Phuket City’s Community Center Hall on August 5. Standing by to keep the peace were some 100 police officers, special police and police volunteers.
Having their say were representatives from meter-taxi companies, tuk-tuk drivers, limousine cooperatives, “black” (unlicensed) taxi drivers, the Phuket Tourism Association, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Region 4, the Phuket Transportation Office, Phuket International Airport, members of the Phuket Provincial Council, other government officials and representatives of travel industry businesses.
Others outside watched the proceedings via closed-circuit TV.
At the hearing, Utai Suksirisompan, a consultant to the Airport Limousine and Business Service Cooperative Ltd, said that Phuket Governor Udomsak Uswarangkura should look at the cause of the problem and try to find the best solution.
Pattanapong Aikwanich, President of the Phuket Tourism Association, was rather more precise. He said although many tourists might enjoy the feeling of riding in a private car, there have been numerous complaints that limousine fares were too high.
“We have to consider whether or not the airport has enough taxis. If so, then we should not increase the number of meter taxis.
“I don’t think we should increase the number of metered taxis, but instead allow the limousine and [black] taxi drivers to switch to driving metered taxis. Customers can decide for themselves which transport service they want to use,” K. Pattanapong added.
In any case, Gov Udomsak’s original plan to have hundreds of meter taxis plying Phuket’s roads may take some time to realize. The representative of the Provincial Transportation Office told the meeting that only four people had registered meter taxi companies, providing a total of 20 vehicles between them. Another 21 meter taxis are registered to individuals, making a total of only 41 registered meter taxis on the entire island.
Suwalai Pinpradab, Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Region 4, noted that the TAT had received many letters of complaint, both in Thai and in English, about transportation services in Phuket.
The current common complaint is about minibus drivers taking their passengers from the airport to a tour company on the bypass road where staff try to pressure them into buying a tour package that includes transportation direct to their hotel.
The public hearing concluded with the setting-up of committees to consider the problem. Committee members include Phuket Senator Paiboon Upatising, representatives from 10 limousine cooperatives in Phuket, officials from the Phuket International Airport, police from all three districts, provincial officials, the TAT, the Phuket Tourism Association, members of the Provincial Council, and others.
The decision to bury the problem in numerous committees follows a tense meeting on July 29 when the Governor was besieged by angry limousine drivers who blocked his car, preventing him from leaving Provincial Hall to go to lunch.
This time, in sharp contrast, some of the limousine drivers tried to hand Gov Udomsak bouquets of flowers. “What are these for?” he asked, before declining to accept them.
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