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Crucial Phuket road deteriorating



PHUKET: The state of the Patong-Karon road has gotten worse over the years and accidents are now an everyday occurrence, local residents say.

The name of the winding road, dubbed Route 4233, changes from Sirirat Road on the Patong side to Patak Road after passing into tambon Karon near Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort.

Three sections are particularly hazardous due to poor road conditions that include potholes, warping and folding.

The first is a 50-meter stretch near the Secret Cliff Resort, about one kilometer north of Le Meridien, where several large patches of asphalt in the northbound lane have become dangerous due to an uneven road surface, particularly at night.

Further south are two more treacherous sections, one near the Baan Karon Hill Resort and Spa and another near the Karon Cliff Boutique Bungalows.

A staff member at the Baan Karon Hill Resort said, “I have been working here less than a year, but I have seen many accidents – as many as two a day in the rainy season when the road gets slippery.

Most of them are foreigners who aren’t familiar with the roads. I haven’t seen anyone die yet, but I have seen many sent to hospital for broken bones,” he said.

Efforts to repair the danger spots haven’t solved the problem in the long term, he said.

“They are always out here fixing it, but after about 20 days it becomes damaged again,” he said.

A tuk-tuk driver who plies the route between Patong and Kata-Karon said he has seen many accidents along the road.

“Most of them are foreigners unfamiliar with the road and many of them are speeding when they crash,” he said.

“It’s been going on for about two years and it happens year round, not just in the rainy season. There are many danger spots on the road and many people lose control of their motorbikes trying to avoid them,” he said.

Efforts to improve the most dangerous sections have only brought about temporary relief, he said.

“We always call the governor’s complaint number asking for the Highway Department to come out and make repairs. Sometimes we have to wait up to 10 days. When they do come, they just cover the problem spots with asphalt, so before long the problems re-emerge. It just goes on like this over and over again,” he said.

Despite the temporary patches the overall condition of the road continues to deteriorate and in many spots has become so bad that nobody dares drive over them.

“There is damage all the way to Patong. If I am driving my tuk-tuk and the damage is in my lane I cross over and drive on the wrong side of the road because I don’t want my tuk-tuk to get damaged,” he said.

Phuket Highway Department chief Arun Sa-nae admitted the road was in a sorry state, but said in the end all road users have to assess road conditions and be responsible for their own safety.

“Bad driving and failure to maintain motorbikes properly are also part of the problem. It’s not just about whether the road is good or bad. Accidents will always happen if drivers are careless.

Accidents occur not only because of the condition of the road surface, but also because the road is curvy and narrow,” he said.

Roads in hilly, coastal areas are notoriously difficult to build and maintain and the problems in Phuket are exacerbated by rainy season erosion and poorly regulated roadside development, he said.

Budgeting is also a problem, he admitted.

The cost of sending out a team to do temporary repairs can run as high as 100,000 baht per job, but this is still far less expensive than rebuilding the entire road.

As the department can’t afford to fix the entire road, they have to focus on the problem spots, he said.

— Atchaa Khamlo


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