Phuket tuk-tuk plan bogs down
PHUKET: The provincial government’s plan to improve tuk-tuk and taxi standards in Kata and Karon, which was supposed to start by the end of September, has already bogged down.
Friday 30 September 2011, 04:05PM
The plan called for taxi ranks and the vehicles using them to be inspected and, if found satisfactory, to be issued with quality certificates for each driver.
An inspection committee comprising members of Chalong Police, Karon Municipality, Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO) and other relevant government offices agreed in a meeting on August 29 that they would visit and inspect vehicle ranks, then select the best three ranks as examples for other ranks, with the project gradually spreading through Kata and Karon and from there across Phuket.
The inspections would cover the condition of the vehicles, drivers’ behavior and how reasonable their fares are.
But after just two inspections, the committee realised that local drivers are not ready to be put in system. Karon Municipality also expressed doubts about how early the new system can be put into practice.
The man behind the plan, the Director of the Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO), Theerayut Prasertpon, admitted that the setting-up of the new standards will take longer than he thought.
“It seems as though neither the local authority nor the drivers are ready for inspection,” he said.
During inspections of two ranks carried out in September, Mr Theerayut found out that the number of vehicles at each had mysteriously increased, and was not consistent with numbers reported by Pornthep Chamkao, the leader of the Kata-Karon Taxi and Tuk-Tuk Drivers’ Group (KKTT).
“We can’t complete our inspections if the locals can’t provide us with the correct information,” said Mr Theerayut. “They are not ready; they haven’t yet finished their own survey.”
He told a transport meeting on Wednesday that when the committee went to inspect transport ranks in Kata and Karon, those ranks did not even appear in the list provided by the KKTT.
In addition, he said, the committee could find no one “in charge” of the ranks, who could show them around and give them details.
The secretary of the KKTT, Pathum Yodkaew, said the number of drivers has risen steadily every month.
“It’s not easy to keep track of how many there are,” said Mr Pathum. “Any survey is likely to be out of date a week later.”
The numbers originally reported to the committee covered only drivers registered with the KKTT. But, Mr Pathum explained, there are many new drivers who have not joined the group.
Mr Theerayut said he was worried that the new system might not work if the number of vehicles proved uncontrollable.
He also said that the fares proposed by the KKTT are still too high. For example, the journey from Karon to the airport could be as much as B1,800. The KKTT wants to charge B500 from Karon to Phuket Town and B700 to the Deep Sea Port at Cape Panwa.
The high fares are a direct result of the long-standing rules set by the island’s tuk-tuks and taxis to avoid conflicts. The rules bar a driver from one area picking up passengers in another area. As a result, drivers, after delivering passengers, have to go back to base empty. They therefore charge a round-trip fare, even though the passengers are going only one way.
“When a driver from one area drops his passengers in another area, he can’t pick up other passengers back because of rules,” Mr Theerayut explained. “So he has to charge his passengers the round-trip price.”
“High fares are a problem for which we still haven’t found a solution,” said Mr Theerayut, adding, “The use of meters has been rejected by the local drivers.” The meter taxis that do exist on Phuket also fall foul of the taxi “rules” because they can pick up only from their base at the airport.
Weerasak Arneckwongsawat, Clerk of the Karon Municipality, which is plainly lukewarm about the whole plan, said that it may struggle after the retirement of Vice Governor Niwit Aroonrat at the end of September. V/Gov Niwit heads the inspection committee.
“His replacement will need time to understand the problems and the details of the new system,” said Mr Weerasak. “The inspection of vehicle ranks may slow down because of the transition.”
He said it was not clear at this stage when the new system will be ready to be applied in Kata and Karon.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Mr Theerayut, agreed. “We have no idea when the system can be started. We will try to fix the problems as soon as we can, but it will depend on how much cooperation we get from local authorities and drivers.” – Paritta Wangkiat