Microbuses to replace passenger vans this year

Microbuses to replace passenger vans this year

Interprovincial passenger vans wait for passengers at the Mor Chit Bus Terminal in Bangkok. The Transport Ministry wants microbuses to replace all such vans within this year. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Interprovincial passenger vans wait for passengers at the Mor Chit Bus Terminal in Bangkok. The Transport Ministry wants microbuses to replace all such vans within this year. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The Transport Ministry has ordered that all 6,400 interprovincial passenger vans operating out of Bangkok be replaced with microbuses by year-end to improve safety.

The 6,431 vans operating under concessions from the state-owned Transport Co would be phased out starting from July 1, Deputy Transport Minister Pichit Akrathit said on Friday.

"Although many people believe that microbuses are more expensive than vans, microbuses are safer, have a longer life and carry more passengers," he said. "Operational costs will drop. Vans have been abused for public transport."

The new buses would carry up to 20 passengers, while vans typically carry 12-15 people.

Mr Phichit said there had been too many accidents involving passenger vans running between Bangkok and other provinces.

The replacement of vans running between other provinces would also start July 1 but would take longer because there were 2,771 vans on such routes, with lower frequencies and fewer accidents, he said.

To help operators, the government could extend their concession periods, have state-run banks offer loans for the purchase of microbuses, and facilitate sales of used vans, he added.

Pol Maj Gen Amnat An-atngam, acting director of Transport Co, said the 6,431 passenger vans included about 4,000 vans belonging to small operators, most of whom owned just one vehicle.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said authorities had also asked the cabinet to consider banning the use of vans for public transport by 2019 for safety reasons.

Passenger van safety has been a concern of the public for years, and the issue was brought into sharp focus this week by a horrific pickup-van collision that killed 25 people in Chon Buri on Monday.

"The proposal has already reached the cabinet to end passenger vans in 2019 because their conditions are unsuitable for public transport," Mr Wissanu said.

The proposal came from the police and the road safety committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon. Land Transport Department officials, police and others met on Thursday and agreed that vans were no longer suitable for public transport service, Mr Wissanu said.

Participants at the meeting said there were concerns about the improper use, condition and speed of vans and the quality of their drivers, he said.

Banning passenger vans would normally require lengthy legal amendments, so Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha could exercise his power under Section 44 of the interim constitution to speed up some necessary amendments, the deputy prime minister said.

More than 40,000 vans were registered for public transport last year.

According to a report by the World Health Organization, Thailand has the second-worst record in the world, surpassed only by Libya, for road fatalities in relation to population.


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