Songkran bus safety checks ordered

Songkran bus safety checks ordered

Dept takes measure after slew of crashes

Buses prepare to take on passengers at the busy Mor Chit terminal in northern Bangkok. Officials claim that only re-inspected double-deckers will be allowed on the highways during Songkran. (File photo)
Buses prepare to take on passengers at the busy Mor Chit terminal in northern Bangkok. Officials claim that only re-inspected double-deckers will be allowed on the highways during Songkran. (File photo)

All private bus operators providing passenger services during Songkran must pass a newly-introduced vehicle safety check with the Department of Land Transport, officials announced Monday.

These stricter measures were launched after two more in a slew of fatal accidents involving substandard double-decker buses last month left several dead and injured.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said that private buses will only be allowed to operate during the upcoming holidays if they receive an operating certificate from the department, which will reportedly have to be displayed on the buses themselves.

The Transport Ministry said last week it would gradually begin to ban unregulated double-decker buses from operating long routes following the incidents, in an announcement similar to one made in 2016 aimed at outlawing the highly-dangerous buses.

While no official date has been set for an official ban, the Songkran holiday from April 12-16 has prompted transport authorities to come up with concrete measures to keep up with the number of passengers expected to use provincial buses during this period.

Private buses and van operators are required to register with Transport Co Ltd, a state enterprise which oversees provincial bus and van operations under the department's authority.

Privately owned vehicles are normally required to take fare-paying passengers during holiday seasons when passenger numbers soar. According to Transport Co Ltd reports, around 600,000 passengers are expected to use their services during this year's Songkran. Over 7,000 double-decker buses nationwide are registered with the company.

Mr Arkhom said the DLT conducts inspections on public transport vehicles twice per year. Vehicle safety checks for private buses during Songkran, however, will be conducted in addition to those inspections, he added.

"Long-term measures, such as the next step [regarding the ban on double-decker buses], are awaiting submission to the land transport policy committee," he said. "What we can do now, as a short-term solution, is regulate the quality of these buses.

"If a bus belonging to a private operator is found to be substandard in any way, all the remaining buses from that company must be inspected [by department officials] immediately," Mr Arkhom added.

DLT director-general Sanith Phromwong said Monday the department has already begun revoking the certificates of substandard buses. The department chief made the comments in an update on two major cases involving double-decker buses last month, both of which killed several passengers.

According to him, the DLT has taken away certificates from the operator of a vehicle that crashed into a concrete pillar in Nakhon Ratchasima's Wang Nam Khieo district late last month, as well as the company which owns the double-decker bus that burst into flames last Friday, killing 21 passengers and injuring 27.

Mr Arkhom said after a press conference that new requirements regarding the structural integrity of the buses' bodies, seats and regulations for using non-combustible materials will be enforced from the beginning of next year.

In a related development, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon has instructed the Royal Thai Police to increase vehicle checkpoints during Songkran countrywide, adding that bribery during this period will not be accepted.

"This year we have enlisted the cooperation of all involved parties, including the private sector. We do not want to see deaths during Songkran festivities," he said.

"Commanding officers must also ensure their subordinates conduct their duties with integrity, and issue traffic tickets in a straightforward manner."

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