PHUKET: A revised design of the 41.7km light rail system running from Phuket airport to Chalong intersection was debated at a public hearing on Monday with the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) hoping to get a cabinet nod by the middle of next year.
MRTA assistant governor Saroj Torsuwan told the forum the MRTA had tweaked the design of the project after discussing it with the Highway Department and the Phuket Airport, the two agencies which own the roads and land plots involved.
He stressed that public opinions from the forum would be taken into consideration when the agency finalised investment models under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Act.
The 35-billion-baht project would see the proposed system run from Phuket airport along Highway 4031, turn right to Highway 402 and head to Phuket town. The track would turn right into Thepsrisin Road, cross Thepsrisin Bridge and turn left into Highway 4021 where it will end at the Chalong intersection.
"The design was revised to include tunnels and elevated sections. While the route passing Old Phuket Town will be kept intact, traffic will have to be re-directed," Mr Saroj said. Two park-and-ride stations would be built, one at the Phuket airport and the other at the Chalong intersection.
The 34.82-billion-baht project was expected to be submitted to the cabinet by the middle of next year with a bidding process likely to take place in 2022, he said. Construction would begin in 2023 and the system was likely to enter service in 2026.
Mr Saroj said the MRTA had twice sounded out potential partners, once in Bangkok and the other in Phuket, and both drew wide interest from the private sector. The tram would travel no more than 80kph and the route would have 21 stations but fares have yet to be determined.
He said Phuket was experiencing rapid growth and worsening traffic, so an efficient mass transit system would improve the quality of life both for permanent residents and tourists a sentiment echosed by Phuket deputy governor Wongsakorn Noonchukhan.
Monday's hearing was attended by local residents, private operators and representatives from local administrative organisations. Many called for more stations to be built in Thalang district and elevated sections near the Monument of Thao Thep Krasattri and Thao Si Sunthon.
The light rail tram system was reportedly preferred because of its lower construction costs and lesser impact on the environment.