Phuket

Officials admit bus ban on Patong Hill not best solution

PHUKET: Officials will go ahead with a trial one-month ban on all buses and trucks travelling over the hills from Thung Thong into Patong starting next month, despite consensus among all major stakeholders that the ban is likely to result in more accidents on the west coast roads (story here).

“Stopping them from using the hill road to enter Patong is not enough, when we know the true problem is the state of the Patong Hill road and the large volume of vehicles using it,” Vice Governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada said.

“The ‘one-way ban’ on Patong hill is not a permanent solution. We will try it for a month, then see if we can come up with better ways to prevent road accidents.”

Tired of runaway tour buses wreaking havoc and carnage in their neighborhood, residents living at the bottom of the hill near the Wat Suwankiriwong (map here) have threatened to protest if action is not taken, V/Gov Chamroen explained.

“And if those villagers blocked the road, I cannot imagine how bad the situation would be,” he said.

The residents live at the main crash site for runaway tour buses whose brakes have overheated while traversing the steep grades over the hills into Patong.

Most recently, on December 29, a runaway bus loaded with Thai and Russian tourists slammed into five vehicles after its brakes failed. Two people died and 26 were injured in the crash (story here).

TUNNEL VISION

Ironically, it is residents living in the same village who have fought the hardest against the proposed tunnel through the hills to Patong, V/Gov Chamroen pointed out (story here).

“The Patong tunnel project is one of the best solutions we have, but it has yet to pass public hearings. Some villagers will not let us move ahead with the tunnel because they will lose their land,” he said.

“We cannot please everyone, but we would like residents to think about the public benefit the tunnel would bring.”

Phuket Land Transportation Office (PLTO) Chief Terayout Prasertphol explained that once the east-west ban is in force, all buses and trucks larger than the stipulated limit will be stopped at the Thung Thong police checkpoint and drivers will be warned not to attempt to use the Patong Hill road.

“We will give them the option of turning around, but anyone who ignores the warning will be fined 2,000 baht each time they are caught,” he warned.

Mr Terayout also voiced concern over the bus ban.

“I am aware that this is not the best decision. It will increase the volume of buses travelling through Kata and Kamala, raising the likelihood of more accidents on those hills,” he said.

“However, the gradients of the roads through those areas are not as steep as those in the Patong hills, so we should expect drivers to use their brakes less frequently, which means their brakes are less likely to fail.”

KAMALA CONUNDRUM

Karon Mayor Tawee Thongcham said he was not overly worried about heavier bus and truck traffic passing through his ambit, as long as drivers were cautious.

But Kitikraisri Keawwan, the Chief Administrative Officer at Kamala Tambon Administration Organization (OrBorTor), was clearly opposed to the move.

“The more vehicles that use the road, the more likely we are to have accidents. Also, buses and trucks need a lot more space than cars, and the Kamala hill road is narrow with a cliff on one side. I do not think this is a good idea,” he said.

Mr Kitikraisri acknowledged that the road gradients through Kamala were not as steep as those to Patong, but pointed out one particular black spot near the Nakalay police box.

“That section of road is very steep and dangerous,” he said.

“I know this is a big problem to fix. I hope the best solution is soon identified so we can reduce the number of road accidents.”

Click here to have your say in the Gazette’s most recent poll, which asks, “What is the best way to prevent further deadly bus accidents on Patong Hill?”

— Chutharat Plerin

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