Calls to rekindle 'red car' service in Chiang Mai
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Calls to rekindle 'red car' service in Chiang Mai

The rot daeng ('red car') service is a popular form of local transport in Chiang Mai.
The rot daeng ('red car') service is a popular form of local transport in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai tourism operators are urging the local government to help revive the transport service provided by the province's iconic rot daeng ("red cars") as more passengers have switched to other forms of transport.

An online discussion saw a Facebook user post concerns about the future of rot daeng services in Chiang Mai as they are now facing fierce competition from ride-hailing services.

A unanimous number of netizens said they had experienced a poor level of service or had been overcharged by drivers of these vehicles in the past.

Punlop Saejew, president of the Tourism Council of Chiang Mai, said it was inevitable that rot daeng have been disrupted by ride-hailing services, which provide more convenience in terms of people being able to book them with a clear price provided ahead of departure.

The problem stemmed from cases that involved rot daeng being requested to travel somewhere, with no guarantee that the driver would be able to pick up new passengers on the way back. In such a case, the driver may have to raise the price for passengers in order to compensate for the higher fuel cost.

Mr Punlop said some drivers, therefore, chose to reject passengers or requested a higher fare.

He said the Department of Land Transport sets the ceiling price at 30 baht per ride, while only 100 of the red vehicles are still active in the city, compared to 1,000 registered in the system.

The 30-baht ceiling may need to be reconsidered to comply with today's living costs, fuel prices and changing tourism behaviour.

"Rot daeng is still an icon of Chiang Mai tourism, as many foreign tourists put it on their must-do list while visiting the province, the same way they want to ride a tuk tuk in Bangkok," he said.

Many hotels booked private tours for tourists by such vehicles to visit different spots in the city.

Therefore, the relevant authorities should help regulate this form of public transport, along with upgrading outdated transport regulations in the province.

Mr Punlop said it was good to see some of these vehicles being included in ride-hailing applications.

However, the government should still create more opportunities for drivers of these vehicles, along with allowing them to serve tourists from Chiang Mai's airport. They would earn income from local passengers who want a lower fare than a taxi or air-conditioned bus.

As the vehicles serve as non-regular public buses at present, the authority should consider allowing them to serve as public buses with regular routes.

In the long run, Mr Punlop said the efficient public transport network citywide is crucial for lifting tourism standards to those of other destinations such as Taiwan and Japan.

Although the city has seen an improvement in public buses, such as the new RTC City Bus which operates between the inner city and airport, it does not yet cover enough areas.

Without a long-term plan, traffic could deteriorate with higher accident rates, especially among foreign tourists who rent motorcycles.

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