Quarter of city’s public vans to be retired

The government began to take a direct interest in Bangkok vans in 2016, and assigned army units to supervise parking and passenger-pickup areas. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The Department of Land Transport (DLT) has revealed that nearly one in four public vans operating in Bangkok and its metropolitan area will be decommissioned by the end of the year, as they are gradually set to be replaced by new mini-buses by 2028.

DLT deputy director-general Cherdchai Sanunsrisakorn said at a press conference Monday that 954 of the capital’s more than 4,000 vans will be over 10 years old by the end of December, which would disqualify them from having their licences renewed under department regulations.

He was responding to claims by van drivers’ associations that up to 1,800 vans could be decommissioned starting next month unless the department extends their licences. Mr Cherdchai said the number given was inaccurate.

According to DLT reports, around 1,500 vans countrywide will be prohibited from extending their licences.

This includes vans operating in Bangkok and its metropolitan area, vans from Bangkok to other provinces, provincial vans operating between provinces, and vans that work within one province.

There are around 12,700 vans now operating in Thailand, according to the DLT.

“Some 260 vans operating 11 routes from Victory Monument [in Bangkok] will be decommissioned this month, the highest number out of all the routes,” Mr Cherdchai said. “We have held talks with the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority [BMTA] to deploy more buses during morning and evening rush hours so passengers are not seriously affected.”

He said if the BMTA is not able to supply enough buses, the DLT will resort to using other vehicles to service passengers.

“We will ensure the public will not be affected by this change,” Mr Cherdchai said.

Sombat Thanyawan, deputy commander of the 2nd Cavalry Division, said the government cannot allow vans older than 10 years to operate.

“Aside from being unsafe, they are also ineligible for insurance from the Insurance Commission, meaning passengers would not be protected,” he said.

Some operators may not feel incentivised to buy minibuses as several electric train line networks are now in the process of being built, he said. Many van routes overlap with these planned or under-construction train lines.

Van drivers can be fined up to 100,000 baht and/or jailed for five years if they are found to be lacking the correct certification.

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