Bangkok motorists are being urged to avoid roads around Victory Monument as construction work to replace overhead power lines with underground cables along both sides of Ratchawithi Road begins.
Authorities concerned are closing one in-bound and out-bound lane along the 400-metre stretch from Tuek Chai intersection to the Victory Monument to facilitate the work which is part of the Metropolitan Electricity Authority's (MEA) programme to put 127.3km of overhead power lines underground.
The work of digging ditches and installing lines and conduits on Ratchawithi Road is scheduled to last 43 days and it is unlikely to finish before Aug 15.
According Pol Lt Col Bowornpop Sunthornrekha, deputy traffic superintendent at Phaya Thai police station, on weekdays the designated traffic lanes will be closed from 10pm to 5am.
The two lanes will closed around-the-clock on weekends. During 9am to 3pm on weekdays construction will take up only 40cm of road space to minimise the impact.
However, traffic woes are widely anticipated around Victory Monument which usually encounters bottlenecks. Ratchawithi road houses several state agencies including three state-run hospitals.
Chan Patamawipark, director of MEA's communications division, yesterday asked motorists to be patient in the event of traffic congestion and any inconvenience that may be incurred during the construction work.
He said when the construction work is complete, the MEA will need to suspend the power supply from time to time. The agency will inform those who may be affected by the power disruption schedules in advance.
According to Mr Chan, putting power lines and cables underground involves five agencies: the MEA, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration; the Royal Thai Police; TOT; and the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).
He said after the work on Ratchawithi Road is complete, the MEA will move to Nonsi Road, Narathiwatratchanakharin Road and Rama III Road, all of which are slated for development next year.
Mr Chan said laying wires underground costs the MEA 10 times more than it does installing them above-ground; but it is necessary to maintain the MEA's power efficiency, he said.
He noted that underground wiring is needed to avoid the collapse of concrete power poles as they carry an excessive load of utility lines.
The Ratchawithi project is the first phase in the MEA's plan to put wires below ground along 39 roads in Bangkok, Samut Prakan and Nonthaburi. The estimated cost of the project is 48.7 billion baht.
It is scheduled to be completed in 2020 -- five years ahead of the original schedule, after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha urged all related state agencies to speed up the first phase in order to serve the digital economy initiative.
MEA governor Somchai Rojrungwasinkul said the signing of the MOU is a must to ensure speedy implementation of the project as it involves several parties and needs coordination.
The police, for example, will help manage and direct traffic while the NBTC will coordinate with current telecom and broadcasting licensees to remove cables underground and lay an underground system together with the MEA's power lines.
A source said the Nonsi project which covers a distance of 8.3km was launched in April with an estimated median price of 2.5 billion baht. A contract signing is expected in September this year with the project scheduled to be completed in 2020.
The MEA is expected to hold bids for a project covering 6.2 kilometres on Rama III road later this year, said the source. The median price is being reviewed and is expected to be around 2 billion baht.
The Ratchadapisek-Asoke and Ratchadapisek-Rama IX project covering 22.5km is at the design stage but the median price is estimated to be around 7 billion baht. The project is likely to be divided into two phases with the first one slated for bidding early next year and the second phase's bidding scheduled for late next year.
Prasarn Pitakworarat, director of BMA's Public Works Department, said the department, which oversees the city's pavements and main roads, has been assigned to coordinate with the MEA.
After receiving the details about the project, the department will allow the MEA to move in and examine the road conditions.