Risky buses on our roads

Risky buses on our roads

A tragic accident earlier this week involving a double-deck bus in Prachuap Khiri Khan, which claimed 14 lives and injured 32, has renewed concerns over safety standards.

The double-decker coach veered off the road and slammed into some trees at the 331st-332nd kilometre marker in tambon Huai Yang of Thap Sakae district, Prachuap Khiri Khan, at about 1am on Tuesday.

A few days later, the government's spokesperson announced that double-deckers would be banned within four to five years.

But it is not the first time the government has tried to remove double-deckers from the country's roads.

In 2016, then-Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha publicly ordered the Ministry of Transport to remove double-deckers from roads following an earlier fatal accident.

The ministry cancelled the registration of all new double-deckers in 2016.

However, given that Gen Prayut didn't use the draconian Section 44 of the interim charter to implement his order, we see many of these vehicles still being used.

But since then, the Ministry of Transport has imposed conditions such as requiring every public bus to be installed with a GPS and a system to record and limit speed.

Operators have been required to have their double-deckers pass a 30-degree slope test and face bans for using some risky routes.

It remains a question, though, how well these requirements have been complied with.

A study released in 2016 by the Thailand Accident Research Centre showed that 80% of the 8,000 double-decker buses in Thailand failed the 30-degree slope test.

The carnage of Tuesday's accident again raises the question of whether these double-deckers are fit to be on the road at all.

Images in the news coverage showed the crashed double-decker looking like scrapped and compressed metal.

It is reported that the parts of the vehicle's body comprised sub-standard components.

Evidence from the scene also reminds us that parts of Thailand's roads (especially curved ones) are poorly designed and made worse by being used by overloaded trucks and large buses.

Somehow, double-deckers -- which are used in some Western countries like the UK, US, New Zealand and some European countries -- became popular in Thailand.

But while safety standards in double-deckers used in Western nations are met, in Thailand, such vehicles are locally made by local body-builders who add an upper deck on single-deck bus chassis (imported whole double-deckers are pricey largely due to high tax).

As of December last year, there were 6,776 double-deckers registered -- 1,508 of which are public buses and 5,179 rental buses.

Despite what the government might say, it still remains a question of how long these double-deckers will remain in service.

So far, attempts by every government to get these risky buses off the roads have failed.

Meanwhile, it won't be a surprise that operators will protest and ask future governments for postponements and leniency.

But the government can't overlook that Thailand is a tourism country, and it must do everything to provide road safety instead of waiting for these double-deckers to just disappear on their own accord.

Editorial

Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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