BMTA to scrap bus purchase plan
Agency to rent fleet as ridership set to dip
The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) is looking to cancel its 20-billion-baht plan to purchase new buses in favour of extending the lease of its existing fleet, citing probable losses caused by the changing commuting patterns of city residents.
If approved by the government, the BMTA will be able to start accepting bids for its fleet lease extension as early as the middle of next year.
"The first batch of rented buses will be handed over within a year," said BMTA chief, Surachai Iamvachirasakul, on Monday.
"That said, this proposal [to scrap the procurement] must first be approved by the BMTA board, whose approval is required before the idea is forwarded to the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC)."
Under the proposal, which was drafted as part of the agency's ongoing business rehabilitation plan, the BMTA will rent out a total of 2,511 buses from two or three different companies under different contracts.
"With lease terms limited to about seven years, it will make it easier for us to adjust our overall strategy to match passengers' commuting patterns," said Mr Surachai.
According to him, the number of bus riders is likely to dip in the future because more passengers are switching to electric trains.
"We don't want to take a risk by purchasing the buses and bearing the interest burden for a long time, given the outlook," the BMTA chief said.
Authorities have yet to decide what types of buses they will rent and Mr Surachai said that the BMTA is interested in looking at electric vehicles, hybrid buses fueled by electricity and diesel, as well as natural gas-powered buses, as options for its new fleet.
According to Mr Surachai, if the bus lease proposal eventually materialises, the BMTA will also abandon its plan to refurbish 323 ageing buses as the agency will use only brand-new ones.
"The proposal will be considered by a new BMTA board, whose member composition will be forwarded for final approval by the cabinet today," deputy BMTA chief Prayoon Choygeo said on Monday. According to a Transport Ministry source, the nine-member panel will be led by Marine Department chief, Witthaya Yamuang.
BMTA's board members resigned in June this year, rendering the agency unable to decide on many important issues which require approval from the executive board.