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Transportation still the number one issue over Phuket airport’s expansion project



PHUKET: The tricky subject of ground transportation overshadowed other matters at a meeting intended to address concerns over Phuket International Airport’s expansion project.

The meeting, which was held at Kata Beach Resort last Thursday, was well attended by both public and private sector representatives from Phang Nga, Krabi and Phuket.

Chairing the meeting were Tuyaratt Achariyachai, Chairwoman of the Senate Standing Committee on Tourism; Pratuang Sornkham, Director of Phuket Airport; and Chaturongkapon Sodmanee, Airports of Thailand (AOT) executive vice president of engineering and information technology.

The matters discussed at the meeting included restroom facilities, car parking, taxi services, the number of immigration counters and general safety issues.

Flying Officer (Flg Off) Chaturongkapon started by stating that the international terminal is expected to be finished in 2014 and the domestic terminal by the beginning of 2015.

The estimated costs for the expansion, expected to handle 12.5 million passengers a year, is 5.791 billion baht.

A request for AOT to add more immigration counters was made by Chairwoman Tunyaratt.

“The number of passengers arriving during September 2010 to October 2011 was about 8.2 million. That’s about 20,000 passengers a day last year, and this year it’s increased to 32,000 a day,” she said.

“During the construction we have to think how to not cause unnecessary delays for the tourists,” she added.

Flg Off Chaturongkapon replied, “We are planning to set up more immigration counters, taking the total from 42 to 60.”

Methee Tanmanatragul, adviser from the Thai Hotels Association, noted that the way airport taxi services are currently managed needs changing.

He suggested that Phuket Airport use the model employed at Suvarnabhumi Airport, where taxis queue up, the drivers paying a 50 baht fee.

Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic Anurak Tansiriroj also had an observation concerning the airport transportation.

“I have heard that taxis are expensive because the drivers have to pay a high commission to pick up passengers. Also, the taxi drivers are very competitive in trying to get passengers and have grabbed tourists. This is a problem that needs to be fixed, because internationally it doesn’t look good,” he said.

Garun Panitpichetvong, Pheu Thai Party director, asked that the project move forward without corruption, and also commented on transportation matters.

“The parking lot allocation needs to be solved. Right now limousines, taxi vans and taxi cars take up most of the parking spaces,” she said.

Patong Mayor Pian’s request for more runways was noted by Flg Off Chaturongkapon, but he explained that the airplanes are only using 2,000 meters of the 3,000 meter runway for take-offs and landings. He also pointed out that building more runways would have an adverse effect on the environment.

There were also requests to establish plans for rubbish management as well as management of shops inside the airport.

“All issues brought up in the meeting will be considered to improve the plan,” Flg Off Chaturongkapon told participants.

— Atchaa Khamlo


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