Kittiratt wants free bus rides for students, elderly, armed forces vets
Senior citizens, students and retired armed forces personnel could soon enjoy free city-wide bus travel under a proposal by Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong.
- Published: 7/10/2012 at 12:00 AM
- Newspaper section: news
Mr Kittirat wants these groups to travel for free on all bus routes.
Currently, certain bus services are free for everyone under renewable temporary terms.
Free bus services were originally introduced to help low-income earners. However, the services did not reach all of them because some lived in areas not serviced by the free routes.
The finance minister said tackling the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority's (BMTA) debt must also be made a priority.
The BMTA has about 7.2 billion baht in assets, while it is 78 billion baht in debt.
The agency needs to slash expenses with serious austerity measures, Mr Kittiratt said, suggesting it look for cheaper land on which to park its buses.
Currently, parking areas cost the BMTA about 10 million baht a month.
Mr Kittiratt said the agency should find cheaper parking space or ask for the use of free parking areas from state offices or private businesses.
He said the BMTA must also increase revenue by modernising its services and improving bus operations to better suit the needs of commuters, many of whom now travel by subway or skytrain.
Deputy Transport Minister Chadchart Sittiphan said the ministry plans to buy 3,183 natural gas-powered buses and eradicate the BMTA's debts.
An early retirement programme for employees will also be announced.
The plans, he said, are still subject to cabinet approval.
He said a 13 billion baht budget would be sought from cabinet to acquire a new fleet of buses. The first 300 buses are expected to enter service in the middle of next year.
Mr Chadchart said he believed new buses will increase passenger numbers and boost revenue. About two million people use BMTA buses each day.
The deputy minister said the BMTA now has about 3,000 buses, although only 2,500 of them are operable.
With the new buses, more routes and more people will be served, he said.
He expected the BMTA to start recording a profit within the next few years.
About the author
- Writer: Amornrat Mahitthirook
- Position: Reporter