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Lotus road chaos “could last a month’ – police

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SAM KONG: With traffic backed up in all four directions at the ‘Lotus intersection’ again last night, Phuketians are getting a good taste of motoring Bangkok-style. The narrow Phra Phuket Rd, running east from the notorious junction with the Bypass Rd, was blocked all the way to the traffic lights at Yaowarat Rd, a distance of close to two kilometers. To the west, the traffic moved at a snail’s pace for about half a kilometer, mainly as the result of people parking along both sides of the road and then walking to Lotus. And to the north and south of the intersection, what had been a highway looked more like a soi, with traffic alternating between full stop and an agonizing crawl. The major cause of the north-south congestion was northbound vehicles making right turns across traffic into the Lotus parking lot. Police believe it may take as long as a month before the novelty of the new ‘superstore’ wears off and traffic begins to return to anything near normal, particularly in the evenings. Pol Lt Col Teeraphol Thipjaroen, Deputy Superintendent of Phuket Town Police Station, told the Gazette, “The Lotus security staff met with me and we made careful plans. “But when it came to the opening, we found they had miscalculated about how many people would use their offsite parking and bus services. Very few are using them. “Instead, most people drive their own cars to the store. There is not enough space in their car park, so people park on the sides of the roads around it. This makes the roads narrower, causing worse traffic jams. The problem is that we cannot change people’s road-use habits.” He added, “I think the traffic problem will take between a week and a month to resolve itself, because Lotus is a novelty. And a lot of people are coming in from other provinces to buy goods for resale.” He said that he had urged the store to enlarge entries to the car park and to clear more space for parking. With access to the province’s three largest hospitals now jeopardized by the traffic, Khun Teeraphol suggests that anyone with a medical emergency call 191 so that police can try to make way for an ambulance. Officials at Wachira Hospital told the Gazette that their ambulances are now using alternative routes whenever possible. They are also advising anyone bringing patients to the hospital from the west or south to come via the Thainaan restaurant junction and Mae Luan Rd. Staff at the Bangkok Phuket Hospital said their ambulances coming from the north are now using a small back road between the Bypass Rd and Sam Kong, via Mubaan Irawaddy, in order to avoid the chaos around Lotus. Patong Hospital, too, is avoiding the Lotus area when sending patients to Wachira. But a spokesperson said this meant the trip from Patong to Phuket and back, which used to take about an hour, now takes an hour and a half to two hours. The Gazette’s efforts to reach Lotus officials for comment today were not successful.

 

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