Controversial public van ban takes effect

Controversial public van ban takes effect

Passengers pragmatic despite longer queues

Commuters queue for transportation Monday in the Rangsit area of Pathum Thani after the government removed hundreds of older vans from service without providing alternative transportation. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)
Commuters queue for transportation Monday in the Rangsit area of Pathum Thani after the government removed hundreds of older vans from service without providing alternative transportation. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

Commuters expressed mixed feelings on the first day of the government's ban on Monday on all public vans older than 10 years.

At the capital's main public van stations, such as Muang Thong Thani and Victory Monument, queues of commuters waiting for vans were reported to be longer.

JS100 radio station on Monday warned commuters living around Muang Thong Thani at around 6.30am that they could be late for work due to the longer lines.

A passenger travelling on a Min Buri-Victory Monument route told the Bangkok Post that she was not going to change her commute just yet.

"I've been planning to use the bus instead, but that means I'll have to wake up much earlier if I want to get to work on time. So I decided to wait for vans as usual," she said casually.

"I agree with the measures, however, because several vans I've been on are too old to run safely," she added.

Another passenger at Victory Monument also agreed with the ban. However, she said the government needed to provide better alternative solutions.

"I'm not sure what type of vehicle I will have to use now," she said adding that the Ministry of Transport should work harder to provide information to commuters.

As a temporary remedial measure, the Department of Land Transport (DLT) has deployed 65 buses to provide services to commuters at van stations such as Chatuchak, Future Park Rangsit, Muang Thong Thani, Min Buri and Victory Monument, among others.

"In addition to the buses, we have instructed van operators to increase their rounds, something which they have gladly agreed to do," said Peraphon Thawornsupacharoen, acting director of the DLT told media after inspecting public van stations.

"We have also established a centre to take in emergency calls in case more buses are needed," he said.

Last Monday, the DLT announced it would go ahead with the ban on public vans older than 10 years to boost safety. It also said it will only be registering new minibuses to replace vans.

According to the DLT, there are over 12,000 registered vans now in operation. Some 248 vans countrywide have been decommissioned so far, and over 1,500 are set to be retired by year end.

The department says the last of the public vans will be decommissioned by 2028.

Van operators have voiced anger at the policy and complained that they cannot afford to buy minibuses. They have asked for a compromise whereby renewals are granted on a case-by-case basis for vans that are well maintained.

Last Friday, public van operators accompanied by political activist Srisuwan Janya failed in an attempt to get the administrative court to order the DLT to halt the plan.

"If the government is going to continue with this, then there should be a common standard for all public transport vehicles if safety is the main concern, " said Mr Srisuwan, also the secretary-general of the Association to Protect the Thai Constitution.

"Many old public buses are still allowed to run on roads despite being over 20 years old, so how is that considered safer?" Mr Srisuwan told the media.

Mr Srisuwan said the judicial fight is not over.

He had previously lodged a formal complaint against transport authorities in April on behalf of 731 van operators for "unfairly" retiring vans older than 10 years and not introducing a remedial plan for passengers.

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