Phuket Governor Chockchai Dejamornthan was the guest of honour for the announcement at the Pearl Hotel on Wednesday night (Nov 8), which also revealed that the consortium will be collaborating with the government as a public-private infrastructure development alliance.
The investors, under the banner of the Phuket City Development Co Ltd (PKCD) corporation, will draw up a 20-year development plan to improve Phuket’s transport infrastructure, which for decades primarily has been under the control of private tuk-tuk, taxi and limousine cartels.
Top priority has been given to delivering a mass-transit bus network to operate in concert with the light-rail project that is still awaiting approval by the Cabinet.
Phuket has been waiting more than 10 years for the planned light-rail system which – when, or if – it arrives will provide public transport from Tha Noon in Phang Nga to the north of Phuket, past Phuket International Airport, through Phuket Town and terminate at Chalong Circle in the south of the island.
Developing the bus network has been given top priority and is expected to cost B400 million, said PKCD co-founder Kan Prachumpan who is also the chief executive of The Beach Group of companies which has developed more than a billion baht of properties in its 18 years of operations in Phuket.
“We are working on a 20-year master plan with smart urban planning,” he told The Phuket News. “Our concept is Innovation, Green Infrastructure and Green Mobility for Sustainable Phuket. We want to develop our public transit to be comparable with Singapore.
“Our projects will focus on development related to the growth of tourism, especially transportation. We are still in our first stage, and the B100mn investment (used to form PKCD) is being used to hire a project consultant and will be used to design public mass transit for five main lines (routes) and other areas,” Mr Kan said.
“For our next phase, we will invest in low-floor transit buses, transit repair depots, digital advertising, traffic direction and so on. For this stage we will need at least B400mn,” he added.
The “smart buses” are to be low-emission, air-conditioned, offer free WiFi and be able to be tracked by GPS.
“I promise within five years, we’ll see these buses running” Mr Kan said.
“The Prince of Songkla University and Mahidol University are conducting a survey for us to figure out why people have stopped using public buses,” explained fellow PKCD co-founder Montavee Hongsyok of Phuket’s Anuphas Group.
The new bus network will not displace the 36 pink Po Thong buses provided by the Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO), he added.
“We will still use Po Thong on some routes as they have become an icon of Phuket,” he said
After developing a local bus network along Phuket’s main commuter routes, PKCD will submit a tender for building Phuket’s light-rail system, but only from the Heroines Monument to Chalong Circle, via Phuket Town, Mr Kan said.
“This project will need at least B20 billion.” Mr Kan explained, adding that to fund the mega-project, PKCD will be floated on the Stock Exchange of Thailand to draw investment from the public.
Present for the launch on Wednesday was also PKCD co-founder Suradech Taweesaengsakulthai, who is also the CEO of Khon Kaen City Development Co Ltd, which initiated the same form of public-private development corporation in that northeastern city.
“My province did not have enough money to improve our infrastructure, so we businessmen have to do it,” he explained.
“I am glad that I am part of the development of Phuket, and now Phuket and Khon Kaen are moving forward together to increase market capital,” he added.
Gov Chockdee voiced his support. “PKCD is good for Phuket,” he said.
“The company belongs to Phuketians and no one should know more about this island than local people and what needs to be done to their city. We are truly support this enterprise,” he added.