Public van ‘retirement’ dispute rumbles on

A parking facility for passenger vans at Rangsit was busy on Monday. The Department of Land Transport says the licences for some 1,800 vans, about half of them operating inside Bangkok, will expire next week because they are 10 years old. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

Van operators and passengers have blasted the Department of Land Transport’s (DLT) decision to decommission vans older than 10 years saying the policy will be detrimental to public transport.

“How do you expect to maintain the same number of vehicles when one van costs around 1.8 million baht while a mini-bus costs three million baht?,” said Napat Rattana, a 48-year-old van operator, adding that she would be forced to buy a minibus.

“While they have offered loan schemes, it is ultimately another government policy which we still have to pay for,” she said.

“Vans on their own cannot hurt anyone. The problem starts the moment someone gets in and starts driving it,” said Ms Napat Rattana, who operates a Min Buri-Nong Chok van route.

The DLT confirmed its plans on Monday in response to claims from van driver associations stating that 1,800 vans countrywide will be decommissioned by the end of the month.

The department stated only 248 vans will be retired in that time, but admitted that over 1,500 vans will suffer the same fate by the end of the year. To fill in for decommissioned vans, the DLT said it would deploy public buses and micro-buses to serve travellers.

The DLT will only register new mini-buses from now on, in a bid to increase safety measures.

Several van operators around Victory Monument — one of the main transit hubs in Bangkok — also disagreed with the DLT’s plan.

“It’s like they are squeezing us out one by one. I have three vans and I still haven’t paid all the instalments for them. How can I manage to buy new minibuses?” an operator of the Victory Monument-Seacon Square route told the Bangkok Post Tuesday. He said the DLT’s plan to retire the vans is not realistic.

“My three vans are going to be 10 years old soon, but their mileages are still minimal. Many buses are over 20 years old. Why don’t they have an official expiration date too?” he asked.

Pitchaporn Kosolpradit, a 27-year-old commuter, said she wondered how long it would take her to get home after more than 200 vans serving Victory Monument cease services in the coming weeks.

“As things stand, there aren’t enough vans right now, the queue is lengthy and people can’t spend money on taxis every day,” said Ms Pitchaporn who regularly takes a van from her home in Min Buri to Victory Monument to go to work in the city.

Another passenger, who gave her name as Kittika, disagreed with the DLT’s measure to introduce more buses in case there are an insufficient number of vans.

“Vans are much faster, so I will not get on a bus for my commute unless the buses actually use the expressway,” she said. “I just need to get to work on time.”

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