Grand plans for revamped bus service

Grand plans for revamped bus service

Loss-making BMTA in major overhaul

The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority's (BMTA) rehabilitation plan will allow the loss-ridden bus agency to deliver better services and make bus travel a more attractive option for private car users, says transport permanent secretary Chirute Visalachitra.

The plan, endorsed by the State Enterprise Policy Committee (SEPC), has been drawn up with the aim of improving the city's bus services and helping the agency become financially viable, he said.

It entails the BMTA deploying 3,000 buses on 108 routes while licensed private firms will operate 1,500 buses on another 54 routes and will be paid a per-kilometre rate.

Equipped with GPS, an e-ticketing system and universal design, the fleet will make travel in and around Bangkok more convenient. The vehicles will also be environmentally friendly, either powered by electricity or natural gas.

Bus travel will become cheaper, with a one-day flat-rate fare of 30 baht being introduced.

"The rehabilitation plan is also aimed at delivering improved services, which will encourage more people to switch to the public transport system and help reduce traffic congestion and pollution," he said.

Kanit Wattanawichian, a former BTMA board member, on Monday welcomed the rehabilitation plan and applauded the agency for hiring private companies to operate part of the service, as opposed to running its own exclusive fleet.

"This will help the BMTA cut costs. The flat-rate fare is also good for passengers," he said.

Mr Kanit said the new plan would also bring greater transparency to the agency's operations. For example, the bidding process to select private firms allowed to operate bus services is to come under an integrity pact, which will allow representatives from the public sector to participate in the vetting process.

"The purpose is to deliver a cost-effective public service. Without this restructuring, debts will exceed 200 billion in three years," he said.

The BMTA has run up debts of more than 172 billion baht and observers say that without the overhaul the amount will likely exceed 200 billion baht by the end of 2020.

Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said the fine details of the rehabilitation plan are being studied by a sub-committee this week to be sure that once implemented the BMTA will not run up new debts and that it will go before the cabinet for approval some time next month.

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