While the extended shuttle boat service along Khlong Saen Saep has been a hit with commuters, it has failed to impress canal-side home owners who complain of river bank erosion from waves created by the boats plying the busy canal.
Nittaya Prempreeda, 56, looks at her waterfront property which has been eroded by the waves from Khlong Saen Saep. Next to her sits a sign asking boat drivers to go slowly so as not to create large waves that could worsen the erosion. PATTANAPONG HIRANARD
They are also upset about the noise and the fumes from the service.
The 11km extension covers 14 piers from Wat Sriboonruang in Bang Kapi district to the Min Buri district office.
Bangkok governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra promoted the extension during his election campaign earlier this year before he was voted in for a second term.
Krungthep Thanakom Co (KT), the business arm of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), had hired a consultant firm to conduct a feasibility study of the project, which was inaugurated on Jan 15.
KT hired a private company to run the boat service, the contract for which expired on Aug 13 and was then renewed for a year.
Seven 60-seat boats ply the canal every day of the week from 6am-9am and 4pm-7pm.
The service has been a hit with commuters, but not canal-side residents.
The wake from the boats as they zip along the canal produces waves that are eating away at the earthen banks of some of the homes, the residents say.
The smell from the exhaust fumes of the boat engines and the loud noise they create have also been a cause of irritation to the residents who feel their peace has been disturbed.
Nittaya Prempreeda, a 56-year-old resident of Seehaburanukij Road near Khlong Saen Saep in Min Buri district, said the rapid erosion of her canal-side land was being caused by the boats.
"We have lived here for 40 years and the erosion has never been so bad," Ms Nittaya said. "The shuttle boats are unnecessarily large and they cause huge waves," she added.
Ms Nittaya said she had spent a lot of money to buy large rocks that she is using to create an embankment to mitigate the effects of waves washing against her land. However, the erosion is persisting.
She also tried planting trees along the canal front. Again, this has not worked.
The erosion continues to wash away land and the foundations of her home could soon be in danger.
Another resident, Anuras Pukkawet, 62, said erosion had eaten away 3m of his land.
The loud noise and black smoke had also found their way into his bedroom.
He hired workers to dig soil from the canal bed and fill in the eroded areas. The problem eased when the Foundation for People Who Love Min Buri helped erect concrete poles in the canal to shield against the waves.
The residents said they did not oppose the boat service. They only asked that the authorities tackle the problems the boats have caused.
Earlier, they appealed to the district office, the Marine Department and the BMA for help, but received none.
The conflict generated by the boats was brought to the attention of a Pheu Thai Party MP for Bangkok Wichan Michaianan who recently encouraged affected residents to file a police complaint against the service.
The residents also handed a petition to City Hall demanding that it address their grievances.
Deputy Bangkok governor Amorn Kitchawengkul, who received the petition, promised them help.
Mr Amorn said he had assigned KT and Min Buri district office to work together to examine the properties of four residents who complained about canal-side land erosion and to figure out a solution.
The deputy governor said he had also ordered KT to conduct a study on ways to deploy smaller boats and lower boat engine noise and smoke emissions while also making sure the erosion problem is dealt with.
He insisted the BMA will not cancel the shuttle boats as they offer city residents faster, cost-effective transport.
The extended route is popular and currently serves 30,000 passengers a month. Around 4,500 of them are students, he said.
"The boats will run at a speed limit of 20kph. Breaking the limit will see an immediate termination of the concession," he said.
Many boat customers reckon the shuttle boats beat the rush hour traffic. They are their preferred transport option for getting to inner Bangkok.
Pakkinee Thonglim, an office worker, said the boats cut back on commuting time from her house in Min Buri to the Silom area, where she works.
The boat service is more convenient and quicker than travelling by road, she said. However, she said the boat operators could be more punctual.