Extended Phuket tram service mooted

Extended Phuket tram service mooted

Phuket island may have its tram service in six years. (Photo by Pongpet Mekloy)
Phuket island may have its tram service in six years. (Photo by Pongpet Mekloy)

The Transport Ministry has agreed to build a 60-kilometre north-south tram line at a cost of 23.5 billion baht on Phuket island over the next six years with Chinese, European and Korean operators expressing interest in getting involved.

Chaiwat Tongkamkoon, deputy director-general of the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP), said a meeting of transport authorities including Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith resolved to build the tram line to relieve heavy traffic congestion that was affecting tourism in Phuket.

"The OTP organised three public hearings and received positive responses from local people and operators. From now it will talk to the departments of highways and rural roads that supervise the traffic islands where tram lines will be built," Mr Chaiwat said.

The light rail system had received support from the Transport Ministry because there would be no need for land expropriation, construction and maintenance costs would be low and it could be designed to blend in with the urban areas of Phuket, he said.

Transport authorities on Thursday ordered the OTP to work out the details of the project with the Department of Highways, the Department of Rural Roads, Airports of Thailand Plc (AOT) and local administration organisations.

The OTP will present the details to the Transport Ministry this year and the project would be proposed to the cabinet for approval after that, Mr Chaiwat said. AOT is involved as the tram line will connect to Phuket airport.

"The project will solve heavy traffic jams in Phuket. It can take tourists as long as three hours to reach the airport," Mr Chaiwat said.

The tram route was planned to start at the Tha Noon train station in Phangnga province adjacent to Phuket. Then it will run southward through Phuket and reach Chalong intersection in the southern end of the island province.

The system will include 23 stations and should initially serve 68,000 people a day when it opens in 2021, Mr Chaiwat said.

The government will arrange construction areas and invite the private sector to be its co-investor. Chinese, Korean and European operators were keen to invest in the tram system, he said.

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