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Phuket Governor order to widen Chalong underpass lanes jeopardises fast lane for ambulances

PHUKET: Work will begin tonight to widen the lanes past the construction site of the Chalong Underpass to relieve huge traffic jams following an order by Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong during an inspection visit this morning (Mar 8).

construction, transport,

The Phuket News

Thursday 8 March 2018, 05:48PM

The barriers in front of Muang Phuket School will be removed first, Thongchai Chuchoet, project engineer of contractor Civil Engineering Co Ltd, confirmed to The Phuket News this afternoon.

“After that, we will see whether the traffic is better or not and then we will remove the barriers at other locations to help relieve traffic congestion,” he said.

However, the move counters lane changes made only on Monday (Mar 5) that were hoped to fast-track ambulances past the tailbacks, which regularly reach up to 1.5 kilometres long.

“The big problem now is the traffic jam,” Mr Thongchai said. “One side wants more space to drive, one side wants a special route. We want to do everything for everyone, but we can’t.

“So now the thing we can do is widen the traffic surface so that the traffic problem will reduce. We will follow the order from the Governor. We think that if there is more space, the traffic will be better for everyone,” he added.

Asked about the lane changes made on Monday, Somkiet Yimpong, Project Engineer at the Phuket office of the Highways Department, explained to The Phuket News yesterday, “We are concerned about the ambulances. All we have now is Traffic Police helping to manage the traffic in the rush hour so the traffic can flow better.”

The changes on Monday allowed ambulances to use the same access in the centre of the road used by dirt trucks and other vehicles requiring unfettered access to the construction site, hence allowing ambulances a faster path past the site in order to reach the Chalong Hospital Accident & Emergency Centre located on the north side of Chalong Circle.

Those changes have now been undone in the hope that better traffic flow for everyone will be enough for ambulances as well.

“Now we trying to rush the construction to reduce the traffic problem,” Mr Somkiet explained.

“In about four months the traffic will gradually reduce. After we have completed building the retaining walls and the roof of the tunnel, we will move the barriers so that the traffic surface will become even wider,” he said.

In the meantime, Civil Engineering Co Ltd project engineer Mr Thongchai suggested that drivers use Soi Suksan 1 as an alternative route to avoid traffic jams past the site.

“Even though it is a detour, it’s better than being stuck in the traffic jam,” he said.

However, for Rawai Municipality ambulance driver Nuttapol Kaewpraju, that might not be enough.

“Traffic at Chalong Circle is a problem for ambulances as it causes long delays,” he said.

“I’m very worried about the patients we have to transport. The traffic at Soi Suksan 1 is very slow because there is only one lane, which means the cars in front of the ambulance cannot clear the way to let us through.

“In some cases, even though we are an ambulance, we have to wait for up to 20 minutes to get past Chalong Circle,” he said.

 – Jirarat Rakjamroon



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fedepar | 12 March 2018 - 12:41:55

In these days the traffic northbound from Rawai is even worst than before.
In the past there were two lanes in the last meters before the circle, and this was easing the disengaging from the jam for the cars going left and straight, now only one lane as now.  
The cars going south can now enjoy two lanes after the circle, but they are unuseful and prevent the use of the same lane northbound.

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Pauly44 | 10 March 2018 - 08:21:37

"North to south half the time it used to take" are you for real?  As there is only 1 southbound lane open at the central underpass that tails all the way back, then there's the madness at chalong which can take up to an hour to get through, someone will say anything to put a positive spin on what is an absolute cluster! 

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Kurt | 09 March 2018 - 13:19:35

It is a good, but late, initiative to have a lane for emergency services.
Guess to many complains of the high way patrol police cars who race the VIP busses to Kata/Karon hotels for lunches/dinners but hold up in chalong Circle traffic. Bad, loose face for Phuket authorities. So, a 'fast track'.
Ambulances hopefully get now better off with such as well, took since October 2015 till now!

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ematt | 09 March 2018 - 13:02:53

"Underpasses on this island have not been a great success..."

They haven't? I can now drive from the north of the island to the south of the island in a little over half the time it used to take.

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malczx7r | 09 March 2018 - 08:05:08

And all because they can't drive properly and give way to traffic from the right!

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Shwe | 09 March 2018 - 05:43:36

No Surprise is it that these "engineers" cant agree or that traffic jams are really bad. Underpasses on this island have not been a great success, but I guess someone benefitted from them.

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Fascinated | 08 March 2018 - 23:29:35

Since when does any taxi, minibus or other vehicle in Phuket (other than mine and a few other foreigners) EVER give way to Ambulances? 

I see them battling traffic on a daily basis with few attempting to move for them.

As for rushing construction that bodes well doesn't it!

Good old Phuket 'compromise'.

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marcher | 08 March 2018 - 21:10:12

Not sure where Soi Suksan is. Be useful to have more info. Seems as though this week the traffic is worse than ever and the only way out of Rawai is by motorbike which i hate. A great pity that a plan was made before this chaos happened

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