Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

HOME // Best of Phuket // The Phuket light rail project is a waste of 35 billion baht

The Phuket light rail project is a waste of 35 billion baht

OPINION by Tim Newton

35 billion baht spent on infrastructure that few will use, on a route that is no value to tourists, and will cause massive disruption for the 3-5 year build time. Why is the Thai cabinet still flogging the Phuket light rail dead horse?

The Transport Minister, Suriya Juangroongruangkit, has re-tabled this long-considered project and promising the first passengers by 2031.

It’s not going to happen.

The tram route plans to run from the Phuket International Airport, down busy Thepkasattri Road, through Phuket Town on the east coast, and then finishing near the Chalong Circle.

Phuket’s tourist industry, which accounts for 95% of the island’s business, is almost completely ignored in this project.

Some locals, who travel from the north or south to Phuket Town (where less than 5% of Phuket’s tourists stay), could actually benefit from the light rail IF it happened to have a stop near their workplace, and if they could afford the daily fares.

The two-way tram will be built right in the middle of already busy roads – notably Thepkasattri Road – then in the middle of the equally busy Chao Fah East road which, mostly, doesn’t already have a centre-strip.

Estimates just before Covid from the MRTA expected cabinet approval in 2018 and construction likely to begin in 2020. They estimated it will be operational by 2023. Nothing happened.

Let’s do some maths. At the time, the MRTA estimated fares would be no more than 100 – 137 baht, less for shorter hops between the 21 proposed stations. Already, at those estimates, the daily use for most Thais is out of reach. If it costs about 120 baht to fill an average 110cc motorbike, which would last most of the week, and deliver them door-to-door, which one would you choose?

Even if they use the light rail, the locals still have to get to the light rail station, and then from their arrival station to work, adding more costs to the light rail fares. And adding time.

What about Phuket’s tourists?

The tram stops along Thepkasattri Road and Chao Fah East Road avoid all the tourist hot spots along the west coast. It focusses on locals living along the main Thepkasattri trunk from Thalang to Phuket Town and then Chao Fah East to Chalong.

Patong? Kata? Karon? Nai Harn? Surin? Bang Tao? Kamala? Nowhere near them. The light rail route is not even close.

Light rail vs Motorbike

Thai users are unlikely to give up their point-to-point motorcycle transport for a more inconvenient, and expensive, tram that will necessitate them using expensive taxis, buses and motorcycle taxis at either end to get them to and from their destinations.

The construction obstruction

Imagine the three year construction period which, if following recent major road construction projects, is likely to blow out to even longer. And can you imagine the massive disruption of traffic during the construction time. Closing down the right hand lanes of northbound and southbound traffic along busy Thepkasattri and Chao Fah East Roads! Or closing down two lanes?!

And even after all that construction, the loss of road space along the route will restrict the existing and future road traffic even more, neutralising any perceived gains from the new light rail. Imagine the actual tram tracks, in both directions, a planned 21 stations, the overhead walkways, station parking… where is all this going to go?

Phuket transport reform

Phuket needs public transport reform as it faces existential infrastructure problems. The latest attempts to improve roads, add underpasses and improve existing services has done nothing to resolve the traffic crush because the number of people using the roads has mushroomed. The infrastructure improvements fixed problems that existed a decade ago, not now.

And what will Phuket’s taxi and tuk tuk mafia do about the huge expenditure of government money to build a competition for their services?

The 35 billion baht price tag for a new light rail, travelling where no tourists want to go, will simply clog up the existing arterials. And it’s unlikely to be used by the locals anyway. So why build it?

Tim Newton can be watched on the daily Tim Newton Today YouTube program for the latest in Thai news and commentary.

Advertisement Phuket Go Advertisement sidebar_1


5 Star Marine Phuket

You May Also Like

Phuket News

Tuesday, May 21, 2024 – Phuket weather, sunset times, air quality and tides (7am) Plenty of rain around today, especially early morning (you can see...

Phuket News

Tuesday, February 27, 2024 – Phuket weather forecast Increasing cloud today with a corresponding increase in winds from east. The slightly overcast conditions should...

National News

UPDATE: There has been another NOTAM (Notice to Air Missions) issued in the past 24 hours which changes Item 5, which MAY provide an...

Phuket Life

No. The December 26, 2004, event, known as the Asian Tsunami, Indian Ocean Tsunami or the Boxing Day Tsunami, was an extremely rare event...