Get smarter with Rama II

Get smarter with Rama II

Rama II Road, which intersects with Highway 95, the country's only southbound artery, has grabbed national headlines again. Over the long weekend, it was blamed for turning off tourists en route to the resort town of Hua Hin. The report posted on the "Paksabuy" Facebook page stated that netizens had cited congestion along Rama II Road, as well as expensive accommodation, as one of their chief reasons for avoiding Hua Hin.

The news prompted PM Srettha Thavisin to pledge to penalise the contractors thought to be most culpable for causing the tailbacks and health risks, and he ordered the Ministry of Transport to speed up construction or face consequences.

The result is, of course, that the PM is likely to seek band-aid solutions to a problem that is systemic.

Yesterday, Sarawut Songsivilai, director-general of the Department of Highways (DoH), promised that construction would be paused during the upcoming Songkran Festival in April and implored motorists to "be patient" and wait for one more year for the completion of three elevated expressways.

While his message might be music to the ears of local motorists, it must be noted that the DoH has, for a few years now, trumpeted its plans to expand the use of elevated highways at a number of the most highly congested sports. But will they ever materialise?

Road development on Rama II started in 1970, and it never seems to end. The development is evidence of the lack of direction and coordination between provincial administration and local administration, with almost 20 construction areas or road repairs ongoing as of now. Endless construction work and repairs carried out during nighttime lead to road accidents and fatalities.

During the past few years, there have been more than a few reports of motorists and construction workers being injured or dying after being hit by concrete material falling from elevated expressways under construction.

The question is: How many construction projects are in the pipeline along Rama II Road? The Transport Ministry has no answer.

Indeed, there has been an agreement that a special committee must be formed to oversee all such projects. The special committee would coordinate these projects to make sure that all agencies are on the same page. It would also monitor safety standards and attempt to ensure transparency at every level. It is such a pity that this idea has not caught the ear of policymakers.

Rama II Road's development reflects a systematic failure to design a good and sustainable transport system. During the past five decades, Rama II has been expanded from a four-lane highway to a 14-lane monster, only to see congestion worsen. The solution is building an elevated expressway.

Of course, roads must be built, but that is Thailand's transport dilemma in a nutshell. Road projects always take first priority, and other more environmentally friendly and sustainable possibilities are barely considered. There is currently no high-speed southbound train, and it is shocking that Hua Hin train station only received a superficial facelift and was upgraded to double tracks last December.

The government cannot keep on expanding Rama II Road indefinitely. As Thailand boasts of a net-zero future and a shift from road to rail, it would make sense to send the right message to observers and the public alike by spiriting Rama II's frustrated road users out of their drivers' seats and into fast, newly built and comfortable train carriages.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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