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Phuket expats call for action over deadly Patong Hill road

PHUKET: An online poll launched by The Phuket News has sparked a flurry of emails from readers calling for specific action to be taken to make the deadly road down Patong Hill safer.

tourism, transport, patong, accidents, death, Chinese,

The Phuket News

Saturday 22 July 2017, 11:00AM

The tour bus on July 10 was carrying 36 passengers when it failed to stop and crashed at the bottom of the hill, just past Wat Patong. Photo: Eakkapop Thongtub
The tour bus on July 10 was carrying 36 passengers when it failed to stop and crashed at the bottom of the hill, just past Wat Patong. Photo: Eakkapop Thongtub

The Phuket News last Saturday (July 15) launched the poll, asking the simple question, “What should Phuket do about the deadly Patong Hill road?” (See story here.)

The poll was launched after two tragic tour bus crashes on Patong Hill claimed three lives in less than two weeks.

On the night of July 10, a tour bus crash killed a 10-year-old boy and his father, both Chinese tourists on holiday in Phuket.

That accident came less than two weeks after another runaway tour bus killed a 40-year-old woman who happened to be riding a motorbike on the street where all drivers of out-of-control “brake failure” buses aim to come to a rest, instead of slamming into a concrete wall beside the entrance to the street.

Together, the two accidents left nearly 50 people, mostly tourists, injured.

In response to the poll, dozens of readers wrote directly to The Phuket News with their comprehensive suggestions of what should be done. The Phuket News welcomes such thought-out replies, and publishes the key messages, as follows:

Gary Brage wrote:

Thailand is missing a 60-year-old law used in most of the rest of the world regarding vehicles.

1) Requirement of ENGINE BRAKES on all heavy vehicles. These engine brakes close the engine valves and make the engine a retarding device to slow the vehicle. Their use saves the service brakes on the vehicle.

2) Requirement of SPRING BRAKES on all heavy vehicles. These brakes use big springs to apply the service brakes if the air brake system fails. The spring brakes also act as a parking brake when the vehicle is stopped. No more stones or blocks seen by the wheels of parked vehicles.

These two systems are relatively inexpensive and can be retrofitted to any heavy vehicle if not installed during manufacture.

Talk to any bus or truck manufacturer and you will find these devices are available and easily installed.

Now the third safety device is a driver who is schooled on the operation of a heavy vehicle and has required time with a check driver, about one month, on the road for training beyond the classroom where they learn the vehicle code and the vehicle operation, also about one month.

I don’t understand why the insurance companies don’t require vehicles and drivers to be properly equipped and trained to insure any commercial vehicle?

Mark White wrote:

The issue appears to be that drivers sit on the brakes down the hill, they overheat, and fail. The correct way to safely descend the hill is to brake hard, then roll in low gear to allow brakes to cool, then brake hard again, etc...

Speed ramps that are so severe they force vehicles to slow to walking pace every 50 or 100 meters would ensure drivers have to follow safe braking procedures. As, sadly, driver education will eventually fail.

The NAKA Island

So, big speed ramps and big warning signs about the speed ramps would be my suggestion.

Ronald Schuette wrote:

They always say: brake failure is the reason. But it’s the bus driver’s failure because they are not educated with the simple solution – use always a low gear all the way down and nearly not the brakes. Then the brakes won’t fail.

Godi (Long-time Expat) wrote:

I don’t see the option for a tunnel (on the list of responses available). Coming from a mountain country in the heart of Europe with lots of tunnels, this is my opinion the safest way to Patong.

A tunnel would save lives. It would be the safest way to Patong.

How many more ancients have to happen over the hill to Patong which most likely would not happen if there were a tunnel?

A tunnel will help most likely to assure unfit vehicles, big buses, big trucks and inexperienced steep hill drivers to arrive safely in Patong.

Patong has become a city, so logistically trucks and buses will need to access Patong with supplies adn carrying passengers.

Make sure that it is not possible to overtake in the tunnel with concrete blocks lane used to separate lanes and don’t allow unfit trucks, buses and other vehicles over the hill.

Finance the tunnel with like they do in Bangkok by charging a Highways Expressway toll.

Think about it, be wise! A straight road through a tunnel is safer to drive than a dangerous, curvy, steep up-and-down hill road.

Safe regards.

Karl (last name not supplied) wrote:

Simply have large parking areas short of Patong Hill, for example near the Tesco Lotus near the Phuket Waterworks Authority office in Kathu, before reaching the intersection with the Caltex petrol station, therefore allowing all large buses to park and then transfer people across to minivans to ferry passengers over the hill to their hotels, etc. A “very very simple solution”.

The same applies for all the coastal roads which are now gridlocked because of one bus that can hardly move. This will also stop these buses spewing out fumes, which is not fair to the young people on bikes. Officials should consider their health.



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Pauly44 | 24 July 2017 - 16:49:23

Neither options would work in my book Christy, far too much traffic flows through there for any disruptions, have a weigh/checking station off the main road to the left so normal cars can pass through without the interruptions & are you sure it's not the drivers, condition of the vehicles etc. & ONLY the stop go traffic that causes the so called "brake failures"?? Judging by what I see I'm not convinced....

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Christy Sweet | 24 July 2017 - 16:22:09

Pauly 44, The authorities were going to post police at the bottom of the hill which was going to cause congestion anyway. Not only is that futile, but dangerous for the staff involved. My suggestion will work, I'm quite sure it is not the drivers, not the  vehicles, but the simple fact brakes are overheating from over usage because the  traffic stop-go-stop  mandates high usage of brakes.

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Pauly44 | 24 July 2017 - 13:16:13

Christy: your solution of posting police at the top of the hill to clear traffic on the other side is not very good as it will cause traffic mayhem, how about banning any vehicles larger than a specific weight from going up the hill in the 1st place, have a weigh station checkpoint where the go kart place is and any vehicle doesn't pass weight / condition must turn back, mandatory limits are standard all over the world, & it's not just the "dry" weight of the vehicles, too many are far too overloaded to even contemplate such an ascent & that is also the reason for excess pressure on braking going down, get them off the hill period!

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Jome | 24 July 2017 - 12:03:40

Patong hill is actually not a hill,its a small hump compared to other hills and long pass roads in the world with regular bus traffic up and down...with bus drivers who know to operate their vehicle.
Nothing will change as long as the bus drivers dont change.

The Phuket News

Christy Sweet | 24 July 2017 - 08:13:59

Problem; Brake failure from overheating. Solution; Stop overheating of brakes. How; Post police at top of the hill to clear traffic in front of large vehicles to the bottom of the hill so the brakes do not have to be used constantly in stop and go traffic. 

The Phuket News

albator | 23 July 2017 - 12:33:21

I completely agree with Gary Brage. Proper trucks and buses (not from the 1970s), proper driver's training, proper maintenance (technical check every year), checking driver's too (medical tests).
I don't think a tunnel is the adequate solution, at least the one suggested by Godi. Making only 1 lane with no overpassing possible, and concrete blocks to separate lines. What happens if one bus or truck breaks down in the tunnel, or if there is an accident ? Traffic stops for how many hours ? How many km of traffic congestion ? How do the EMS and rescue teams get there? Cost of a tunnel will be sky-rocketing considering the level of corruption in the island.
It is quite complicate to find a proper solution. Building a new road, but with which itinerary to have a smoother hill route ? Re-designing the existing hill road, with less slope % ? 
Unfortunately, with the always increasing traffic development, I'm afraid we are bound to see more accidents like this, sadly to  the expense of the victims and injured people.

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