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New Phuket bus plan breaks “transport barrier’

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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New Phuket bus plan breaks “transport barrier’ | Thaiger

PHUKET: After decades in the planning, a new bus service will launch on the island in March. The new route will travel between Phuket International Airport and the popular tourist beaches of Patong, Karon, and Kata via Tesco Lotus on the bypass road (click here to see map of the new bus route).

For safety reasons, Phuket Land Transportation Office (PLTO) chief Teerayut Prasertpol asked the Phuket Gazette not to name the operator willing to launch the bus route, but he disclosed that the company had signed a seven-year contract with the government to provide the long-awaited service.

The new service will offer “hop on, hop off” bus stops at a maximum cost of 120 baht for the entire route.

“We are not targeting tourists with the new bus service,” Mr Teerayut said. “We are pushing to develop more public transportation options for everyone on the island who cannot afford to keep using taxis and for Phuket residents who often need to travel to the airport.”

“We are planning to install bus stops in Thalang Town, at the Heroines Monument, in Koh Kaew and at the Tesco Lotus shopping mall. There will be only one stop each at Patong, Karon and Kata,” Mr Teerayut explained.

Under the terms of the government concession, the buses must be air conditioned, seat no more than 30 passengers and have room for travellers’ luggage.

“At this stage the buses are set to run every 40 minutes, starting around 6am when the first flight arrives at the airport and ending at around 1am. However, the schedule is flexible. It depends on traveller demand. It is possible the buses may run every 30 minutes. We will see,” Mr Teerayut said.

“We are also considering allowing higher fares to be charged for night buses, but they will not be much more expensive, only about 50 baht more,” he added.

Mr Teerayut stressed that the new bus service will deliver a breakthrough for public transport in Phuket.

“Think about it: If you had 1,000 baht and you were in another province, it could pay for your transport, hotel and food. In Phuket, you need that much for the taxi fare alone.

“But with the new bus service, if you have 100 baht in your pocket, you can now travel in Phuket,” he said.

MAFIA CONCERNS

Critical to getting the company to step up and launch the bus service was gaining investors’ confidence the route will be safe to operate.

“The new route operators have expressed their fears in providing the new service. They asked me what we can do to protect them from being attacked.

“I will be honest in saying that I fear local taxi operators might act as they have done in the past,” Mr Teerayut said.

“However, the situation in Phuket has changed. We cannot take it anymore. People need another option and taxi operators must accept it.”

To allay fears of violent reprisals by taxi driver “co-operatives” on the island, the PLTO had to call in support from nearly every major government office in Phuket.

“The work cannot be done by us alone. Therefore, the PLTO is working with Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut, police officers and local administration organizations. We have even talked to local taxi operators to make this route happen,” Mr Teerayut explained.

“Phuket needs to prove that we can provide public transportation for local people and tourists,” he added.

Gaining investors’ confidence that they will recoup their initial investment also took time, about three years.

“I believe the operators will recover their initial investment in about 18 months with this new route – and they believe so too, that is why they applied to provide the service,” Mr Teerayut explained.

“As I said, we are not targeting tourists. I believe people who prefer the convenience of using taxis will still use them, and they will be willing to pay more for the extra convenience. Public transportation is just another option to support the island’s tourism industry.

“At least tourists will not think that public transport on the island is just one big scam and that they do not even have a choice.

“This time the situation is different. People are more aware of the need to create a good reputation for Phuket. With the new route, we are sure that the kinds of problems we have had in the past will not happen again.

“I personally believe that everyone – even airport limousine drivers and taxi operators in Patong and Kata-Karon – all want to see Phuket’s reputation shine,” Mr Teerayut said.

This story was originally published as the page one lead story in the hard-copy issue of the Phuket Gazette that hit the newsstands on Friday.

— Chutharat Plerin

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Chiang Mai

Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half

Tim Newton

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Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half | Thaiger

The TAT, ever the optimists regarding anything tourism related, even domestic tourism, predict that the Bangkok clusters that have emerged in the week before the Songkran break could reduce traffic and spending by up to half.

Today the CCSA is reporting 789 new infections and one additional death. 522 were local infections, mostly walk-ins to Bangkok hospitals, 259 were discovered through track and tracing. The remaining 8 were found in quarantine from overseas arrivals. In Phuket, another 17 cases have been reported today, taking the island’s week total to 43.

Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half | News by ThaigerGRAPH: Worldometer figures for Thailand, up to April 9

A 68 year old man from Nakhon Pathom province died on April 4 but wasn’t reported until today. The CCSA report that he died from Covid and “complications”. 33 other former patients have recovered and been discharged.

Last week the TAT estimated 3.2 million domestic trips would circulate 12 billion baht for the Thai economy. But the Tourism Authority has now slashed their estimates by half after hotels, airlines and bus companies reported mass cancellations in the last few days. Other provinces are reporting less than 20% cancellations. Although this weekend will see a lot of travel, Songkran doesn’t formally start until next Tuesday and the TAT expect there could be additional fallout as travellers decide to have a staycation for Songkran instead heading home.

Bangkok Post reports that 70% of travellers to Prachuap Khiri Khan and Hua Hin have already cancelled hotel bookings. Similar cancellations have been reported in Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai. Many other provinces, particularly in the north east and north, are also enforcing quarantine on arrivals or additional paperwork to try and protect their provinces from any of the Bangkok clusters.

8 north eastern provinces rare now requiring 10 or 14 day quarantine periods for anyone arriving from areas where new clusters have been reported. Chiang Mai provincial officials say that tourists from Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom, Bangkok, Pathum Thani and Nonthaburi – basically Bangkok and surrounding provinces – must complete a 14 day mandatory quarantine or conduct a test for Covid when they arrive.

The reality is that the travel and quarantine changes are outstripping the ability to communicate them all. Anyone crossing into other provinces in the next few day, especially if you’re travelling from Bangkok and surrounding provincial ‘red zones’ can expect some additional paperwork or a Covid test. Or even quarantine.

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Education

Phuket student protests and is flunked as “not loyal to the nation”

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Phuket student protests and is flunked as “not loyal to the nation” | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Student protests led to one student not graduating due to being “not loyal to the nation, institution of the monarchy”

After participating in protests for student’s rights, a Phuket student was barred from graduating 9th grade, moving from middle school to high school, charged with being “not loyal to the nation, institution of the monarchy”. The student had advocated against mandatory uniforms and for student’s liberties. He told reporters that the school started paying attention to his actions last year when he participated in rallies in solidarity with students across Thailand. The school’s student affairs office received a copy of posts he made on social media encouraging others to join the cause. The school ordered a stop to his political actions, but he and his friends disregarded warnings and violated school rules when they handed out white ribbons to classmates. They received a warning from the student affairs office.

Student protests have increased after pro-democracy demonstrations surged in July last year, empowering many Thai people to speak out against injustices, including students’ rights and liberties. People from schools across the nation have been banding together in solidarity to bring their issues to public light.

On graduation day, all the students were promoted into high school, except for the one student protestor, says the Bad Student protest group. The theme of the day focused on dedication to the monarchy, country and religion, and specifically how students should be obedient. The student said he has received support from friends, but his parents remain neutral and his teachers have been completely silent on the matter. He is frustrated that he was punished for his right to express himself. He plans on testing with incoming students to re-enrol in the same school, and if he is not accepted because of the disloyalty charge, he will pursue legal ramifications, suing the school for blocking his right to an education over the student’s protests.

The student believes he needs to speak out to prevent school administrators from imposing on more students’ rights. He advocates for diversity in schools and ending prejudices, with increased liberties and freedoms for students.

“Schools must teach children to be able to think by themselves, not force children to think like them. Schools should create opportunities for students to express their ideas more freely.”

SOURCE: Prachatai

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

16 more Covid infections reported today in Phuket

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16 more Covid infections reported today in Phuket | Thaiger
iTrip.com

Phuket is reporting 16 more infections today. It follows visits from Bangkok and last weekend’s Kolour Beachside parties that have resulted in a number of new Covid infections. The number of new infections has reached 26. But deputy governor Vikrom Jakthee says the province has been successful in containing the new outbreak “due to its quick response measures which now include shuttering bars and nightlife venues.

One of the confirmed cases is a male teacher from Headstart International School in Kathu who, after attending the parties on the weekend, was back teaching students on Monday and Tuesday. The school has sent a letter to all parents advising them of the situation and organising testing for anyone who may have come in contact with the teacher.

The closure order in Phuket comes just as the island province was expecting to get an influx of visitors for Songkran, the Thai New Year. Many bar and club owners were expecting some increased traffic during the holiday week. Phuket officials say they will explain to bar and club owners why they decided to close the venues during the critical week for business.

Vikrom previously cited the start of the island’s Covid vaccine roll-out of Covid starting to head towards a herd immunity in time for the province’s proposed July reopening to international tourists. But he admitted that the sudden appearance of the coronavirus on the island again will force officials to reevaluate the schedule for reopening. He also said that almost all cases were in younger age groups of people in their 20s and 30s.

“Today, the number of infected people reported in Phuket has reached 26, many are from entertainment venues. This figure is relatively high. It jumped from 10 to 26 cases. We will invite operators of entertainment places in for discussions.”

Partygoers who went to any of the Kolour Beachside parties in Phuket last weekend are being asked to visit a local hospital for a Covid test. The parties hosted more than 3,000 people, drawing concern after a musician tested positive for Covid-19, having attended all 3 parties. The Phuket Provincial Government and Phuket Provincial Public Health Office released a statement yesterday advising all partygoers to get tested.

“Those who attended the Kolour parties from April 2 to 3 at Shelter Phuket Dance & Night Club in Patong, Cafe Del Mar Phuket in Kamala and Illuzion nightclub on Bangla Road in Patong are asked to get tested.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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