The news has now blurred how much money the government intends to throw at the long-awaited project.
MRTA Governor Pakapong also reportedly confirmed that construction of the project would begin next year and that services will begin in 2024 as planned.
According to a report by the Bangkok Post, MRTA Governor Pakapong yesterday said that the Phuket light-rail project required another B2bn baht in funding, following some changes to the original construction plans.
“The changes will alleviate the need for tracks in certain areas, adding two to three tunnels and extending the tram route by two to three kilometres,” said Mr Pakapong, according to the report. (See here.)
Also, the report yesterday gave the total current budget for the project as B34.8bn, more than B5bn less than last confirmed and reported by senior transport officials.
The Bangkok-based MRTA was handed responsibility for developing Phuket’s much-touted and decades in coming light rail system due to its experience in handling mass transit systems in the capital.
The legal changes required in order to allow the MRTA to operate projects outside of Bangkok were approved by Cabinet on Sept 11 last year. The news was announced in Phuket in person by the MRTA’s Project Development Department Director Gardphajon Udomdhammabhakdi. (See story here.)
Mr Gardphajon at that time gave the total budget for the project as B39.4bn – already B5bn more than the figure given yesterday in announcing MRTA Governor Pakapong’s news that a further B2bn was needed to complete the project.
That B39bn budget figure was confirmed nearly a year ago to the day when Wilairat Sirisoponsilp, the Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Transport’s Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP), on June1 last year was in Phuket to publicly call for investors to join the mega-project as Public-Private Partnership (PPP) entities.
The investment needed for the light-rail project totalled a precise B39.406 billion, Ms Wilairat said in making that announcement. (See story here.)
That figure was earlier confirmed in September 2017, when Sirigate Aphirat, a policy and planning officer at the Ministry of Transport’s Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP), announced a B9bn hike in the budget required due to the addition of six tunnels for the light rail trains to pass through. (See story here.)
Worse, in only November last year an announcement issued by the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP) reported that the budget required had jumped by B594 million, to a total of B40bn, for reasons unexplained. (See story here.)
That price hike followed Niran Kaetkeaw, Director of the OTP’s Regional Bureau of Transportation and Traffic Promotion, on Oct 26 last year publicly announcing that the entire project was tabled with a defined estimated budget of B39.406bn. (See story here.)
Regardless, the report yesterday noted that the adjustments requiring the latest B2bn price hike had been adopted after a meeting between the MRTA and the Department of Highways, in which Deputy Transport Minister Pailin Chuchottaworn called on both parties to resolve their conflicts regarding the use of land along the tram route, MRTA Governor Pakapong said.
The MRTA now expects to finalise its construction plan for the Phuket light rail project as quickly as possible so that the next process of drafting the terms of reference for the project’s bidding will then follow, he said.
The entire basis for building a light rail mass-transit system for Phuket has repeatedly come under fire over the years, with many high profile figures questioning the need for such an elaborate, and expensive, project.
Phuket tourism business operator Sombat Atiset of the Katathani Group yesterday also repeated his concerns, noted the Bangkok Post report.
The project will neither benefit the resort island's tourism sector nor ease the traffic congestion there as claimed, he said.
Most commuters in the tourist province use motorcycles while a vast majority of tourists visiting Phuket like to stay in the province's popular Patong area, he added.