According to the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP), this will be reality in Phuket soon. (YouTube/The Phuket News)

This will be a “strong” year for plans to kick-start provincial public transport systems across the country, with such plans in at least five provinces on the government’s radar, says Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP) chief Chaiwat Thongkamkoon.

The OTP, as well as other transport-affiliated government authorities, received orders from Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak earlier this month to bolster transport systems outside of Bangkok, he said.

“The traction these projects have gained is indicative of the Transport Ministry’s efforts to decrease the number of private cars on our roads nationwide,” Mr Chaiwat said. “It’s not only about Bangkok; kick-starting provincial public transport will decrease our overall road accident rates greatly.

“The goal now is for other provinces not fall into the same trap as Bangkok, where public transport systems arrived way after development,” he added.

According to Mr Chaiwat, tourism industry front-runner Phuket will lead the way with the OTP’s plans for a light rail transit (LRT) network — also known as a tram network — to be carried out by the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) this year.

Mr Chaiwat said initial steps will involve talks between the government and private sector to establish a public-private-partnership (PPP) investment scheme for Phuket’s mass transit network, to keep up with the province’s rapid growth in tourism and infrastructure.

“The locals in Phuket have voiced their need for an electric train line, since they have been living with a lack of fair and convenient [transport] systems for years, despite their infrastructure development,” he said.

“In addition to local cooperation, Phuket’s Administrative Organisation has expressed a desire to conduct their own studies into the project, which is something we would definitely encourage.”

The province’s planned tram route is set to cost around 39 billion baht, spanning 58.2km across Surat Thani, Phangnga and Phuket itself.

An official computer-generated OTP video shows the latest plans for the line.

The route will be made up of 24 stations, starting at the Thanoon beach area of Phangnga’s Takua Thung district and terminating at the Chalong intersection in Phuket. According to Mr Chaiwat, a PPP proposal will be submitted to the cabinet for approval by the end of the year.

He said the construction should be completed by 2022.

Another province Mr Chaiwat remains hopeful for is Chiang Mai, where the OTP plans for a tram network comprising three routes which have already been submitted to the Transport Ministry for review.

He said the main step now is choosing whether the network will be built on land or underground, with a third option being a combination of the two.

“On land, the networks would cost around 22 billion baht, but they will cost more than three times as much if they were to go underground, at around 95 billion baht,” Mr Chaiwat said.

According to him, the new train networks will not interfere with Chiang Mai’s infamous “Rot Daeng”, or red truck networks, which are the locals’ main method of public transport.

“The Rot Daeng can also use the train stations as part of their daily routes,” he said.

Tram lines in Khon Kaen have also gained traction, with the province’s administrative office also stepping up to conduct its own studies into the feasibility of a tram network, according to Mr Chaiwait.

He said the planned route will span 22.8km and 16 stations, starting at Ban Samran and terminating at Ban Tha Phra in Khon Kaen’s Muang district. The project has been valued at about 30 billion baht.

“We have asked Khon Kaen’s representatives to submit their plans to the OTP this month, so they can be reviewed by the Transport Ministry by the end of February,” Mr Chaiwat said.

A meeting about a public transport network in Nakhon Ratchasima will also be held this month, he added. According to him, discussions with local representatives and the MRTA have resulted in a plan to establish three inner-city tram lines, worth a total of 33 billion baht.

The OTP also received research funding last year to plan a network for Phitsanulok. Mr Chaiwat said the network will involve one tram route and four other bus rapid transit routes.

He added that a 16-billion-baht monorail network in Hat Yai district of Songkhla, stretching 12 stations from Klong Wa to the provincial van station, is currently awaiting an environmental impact assessment.

“We would ideally like to see all provinces have networks like these in the future,” Mr Chaiwat said.

News Reporter

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