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Busting out: New Phuket Smart Bus service to serve entire west coast

PHUKET: The PKCD Smart Bus will begin its trial run in the coming week, ahead of its launch to provide a bus service along Phuket’s west coast at the end of this month.

tourismtransporteconomicspatong
By Shela Riva

Saturday 3 February 2018, 09:00AM


Phuket City Development Co Ltd (PKCD) Executive Director Watchara Jaru-ariyanon stands beside a Smart Bus, one of a fleet of nine to start serving passengers from the airport all the way down the west coast. Photo: Shela Riva

Phuket City Development Co Ltd (PKCD) Executive Director Watchara Jaru-ariyanon stands beside a Smart Bus, one of a fleet of nine to start serving passengers from the airport all the way down the west coast. Photo: Shela Riva

The move is historic. Not since tuk-tuk drivers nearly two decades stopped the sole bus operating between the two key resort towns of Patong and Karon, pulled the driver from the bus and beat him within an inch of his life in broad daylight has anyone dared to launch another bus service along that route again.

The PKCD Smart Bus service will challenge that authority, operating through the tuk-tuk and taxi mafia heartland and carrying passengers from Phuket International Airport all the way to the island’s southernmost beach town of Rawai for a minimum fare of B50 and a maximum fare of just B170.

Executive Director of Phuket City Development Co Ltd (PKCD) Watchara Jaru-ariyanon told The Phuket News this week, “The bus route will start from the airport and go to Cherng Talay, Surin, Kamala, Karon, Kata, Rawai and then back along the same route.

“We are launching the service of nine smart buses on Feb 28. This is the date that we are working towards,” he said.

“Although nine buses are to be operational, one is kept aside in case replacement is needed. So we have 10 buses,” he added.

“If 25 seats per bus is not enough for the demand, we are ready to order more buses. However, we will see first how people respond.”

Before the launch, there will be test runs, starting from next week, Mr Watchara noted.

“First, there will be an internal company trial run around Feb 10, and then another trial before Feb 28 to pick up real passengers who are members of the public.

“For the launch on Feb 28, there will be a launch event at Central Festival East (HomeWorks) whereby the Phuket Governor, members of the Phuket Provincial Office as well as from the national office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports (MoTS) will be present. Tourism offices are important as Phuket is a tourism destination,” he said.

“For the bus itself, the vehicle we are using is the newest Mercedes-Benz bus model on the market. These buses have many key features installed in them. First is space to put any luggage or large baggage as we know tourists who are travelling will be using our buses,” said Mr Watchara.

“Second is accessibility for wheelchair users. There is a special door with a ramp to lift wheelchair users onto the bus.

“Third, we have three CCTV cameras per bus, and we will have staff monitoring the CCTV at all hours that the service is in operation, to ensure safety,” he said.

“The buses will run every 30 to 45 minutes,” he added.

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“The first departures will be from the airport and Rawai at 6am, while the last will be at 8pm. The total is 32 times a day.

“We will have 50 bus stops installed along the route where people can sit and wait. There will also be a mobile application where passengers can check the nearest bus location and its estimated arrival time.

The mobile application, called ‘choop.me’, will also be developed in the future to accommodate hotel, tour and restaurant bookings for tourists, explained Mr Watchara.

 

“The booking features of the app will be launched most likely in April, however the basic use of the app to track buses will be launched on Feb 28, together with the buses,” he said.

“‘Choop’ comes from Phuket Southern slang and means to ‘book’ or ‘reserve’,” he said.

Mr Watchara explained that the payment system for the buses will be via a “Smart Bus Phuket Card”, which will be sold at various locations and can be topped up online or manually.

“We are asking Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong to help us allocate parking spaces at the airport, and if this is possible, the cards will be sold at a booth nearby.

“PKCD will also ensure the cards are sold at the PKCD office, McDonald’s, Family Mart stores and later possibly 7-Elevens, Super Cheap, at tour counters, and on the buses as well. There are many possibilities that can be explored and added,” he said.

“PKCD is a company for the Phuket people, first. It is a social enterprise and not 100% for profit. It’s primary aim is a sustainable future for Phuket people.

“We would like to lead by example for other transport lines or companies. When tourists come, they can see that public transport in Phuket is a problematic thing. Phuket is far more beautiful than that,” he said.

“We are here to try and set an example, and lead the way. We are open to other companies or routes being added in, in fact that is what we want, for more routes of public transport in the future,” said Mr Watchara.

 

 

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jo.loit | 20 February 2018 - 22:24:53

I wish this long overdue service the all the best. One little needle in the butt of the criminal mafia organization on this island..... 

FredFuriousfux | 14 February 2018 - 18:15:47

Hey 'xxxxxxxxxx' - read all of the Comments on here from others. They all  'allude'  to the FACT that, although they wish this new venture good luck and success, they know what the tuk-tuk/Taxi/Mi8ni-van situation is like on West Coast - especially Patong/Karon/Kata....continued above.....

Fascinated | 07 February 2018 - 13:13:25

Yep Fred- let's just regurgitate one incident which happened nearly 20 years ago instead of looking to the future. 

Do you really think this guy didn't do due diligence before investing in the project. people need to move on or things will never be sorted.

People mocked the other bus that is currently in service but it quietly does its job without any issues.

FredFuriousfux | 06 February 2018 - 22:02:35

The Taxi / tuk-tuk Mafia will sabotage / burn your buses and beat your drivers and threaten your passengers. They will not allow your bus service to grow and continue. And no doubt they tuk-tuk Mafia and Taxi Mafia will be  'helped'  by  'others on the island'  to ensure that this sorely needed service is not successful.....

tamsyn | 04 February 2018 - 14:32:22

Colour me sceptical, but even motorbike taxis are not allowed along little Rawai seafront now unless they belong to the cartel, and I fear this will go the way of former attempts to introduce a decent public transport system into the current embarrassment that are the 'chicken busses' having been the only option here for decades. Well that or the same cost as a return flight to Bangkok i...

BenPendejo | 04 February 2018 - 13:25:31

I will be very curious to see how this goes.  It is a sorely needed option, and we shall see who really runs this place.  If this service is allowed to fail at the hands of the criminal element of Phuket's public transit mafia, there there will truly be no hope for any improvements here, and further proof that corruption truly is the underlying system of government.

Kurt | 04 February 2018 - 12:20:01

Let's hope that the Phuket Provincial Authorities not have weak knees again like almost 2 decades ago, that time the tuk tuk mob was ruling primitively that Phuket route
Phuket has 'Highway Patrol Cars', normally pushing high speed through the traffic in front of VIP busses for lunch time in Kata-Karon
They can be used to guarantee safety on the new bus route
A success wish to this ...

Timothy | 04 February 2018 - 09:05:55

This could be the biggest step forward for Phuket in the past 20 years. I hope he gets all the support he needs to be successful. Finally someone brave enough to provide this much needed service. 

Foot | 03 February 2018 - 18:04:26

Terrific idea.
Good luck.

stegee68 | 03 February 2018 - 16:20:56

Cherng Talay, Surin, Kamala, Karon, Kata, Rawai 
why is PATONG missing from this list of west coast towns??
will the bus just drive through and not stop at probably the most popular destination??

Sir Burr | 03 February 2018 - 13:40:04

Not a single word about initial security....

Discover Thainess | 03 February 2018 - 10:43:33

Then best new for phuket in years, I wish them every success and will absolutely use the servive - well done!

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