The route for the B30-billion project will see the proposed tram system run from Tha Noon, on the southern tip of Phang Nga, across the Sarasin Bridge, to Phuket Town and then on to Chalong Circle.
The track will follow Thepkrassatri Road almost the whole way to Phuket Town, with a detour in the north to take in Phuket International Airport.
From Phuket Town the track will head south down Chao Fa East Rd, ending at Chalong Circle.
The total length of the route is 60km, with 20 stations along the way.
At an earlier public hearing held in December last year opinion was in favour of a light rail tram (LRT) system – rather than buses or a monorail – because of the lesser impact the environment and the lower construction cost.
Yesterday’s meeting was more of a briefing on details of the LRT than an opportunity for discussion. Consultants on the project explained that the vehicles will be 30 metres long, each with a capacity of 400 passengers.
The trams will be powered by electricity from overhead cables and from onboard batteries. In Phuket Town, the trams will travel at between 20 and 40kmh, but will be capable of speeds up to 100kmh. The number of trams has yet to be decided.
The tram will run on rails set in a concrete pathway at ground level. Most will be single-track, but parts will be double track to allow trams going in different directions to pass one another.
For much of the route the trams will run along the central reservation but in Phuket Town, tracks will be laid through the existing streets, and a one-way system will be devised to reduce conflict with the traffic.
There are also tentative plans to build an underpass under the Heroines Monument roundabout for cars, with the tram track going round both sides of the monument at ground level.
The committee estimates that travelling from Tha Noon to Chalong will take around 1½ hours, and from the airport to Phuket Old Town around 45 minutes.
Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut, who chaired the meeting, said even though the roads are narrow in Phuket Town, “We are going forward with this project. We received the budget to fund a study to decide the chosen route,” Gov Maitri said.
Studies are due to be completed by November this year.
Logistics specialist Dr Keerati Kitmanawat said the LRT route has been designed to take in important places such as main government offices, schools, parks and markets.
The system will, he said, reduce travel time for many people. It will also help reduce the number of cars on the road, save fuel and reduce pollution.
He said car parks would need to be built near the stations, so people could drive to the stations, park their car, and jump aboard the LRT.
Members of the public attending the meeting were generally in favour of the more detailed plan, though one worried about the potential for accidents due to the LRT being at the same level as the fast traffic on Thepkrasattri RD, while another felt the system should be extended to Rawai and Prompthep Cape.
Phuket City Mayor Somjai Suwansupapana said those behind the tram project are thinking about the culture and tradition in the Old Town, rather than focusing only on the seaside.
She added, “Most of the students at schools in town live outside of the town area. We need to study the impact on traffic, and we also need to study the pattern of floods in Phuket Town over the last 10 years. If possible, some parts of the LRT should be underground.”
Gov Maitri said there was “no perfect solution” for the transport system, and they would select the option most suitable for Phuket. “We need to think ahead for the next 10 years.”
A third public meeting will be held in October.